November 17, 2007
Illinois, Opinions

Beware of the wind farm pitch in county

There have been a few recent articles regarding wind energy. The article on constructing wind generators on school grounds is a great idea and I could support that type of direct energy savings for our local schools. I think that one of the wind farm developers should construct turbines, as a show of good faith, for each our schools. In fact a turbine constructed in the vicinity of the 1700 block of West Stephenson Street would be a prime location to serve Freeport Junior and Senior High schools as well as Highland Community College. Mr. Smith’s letter was well written but obviously biased since he’s worked on wind turbines and, like anyone, is defending a source of income. There is no doubt that wind power is an alternative source but the “facts” aren’t quite as clear cut as some want us to believe. The noise, shadow flicker, and unsightliness are all legitimate personal concerns. The following are “real” concerns, issues that will affect all of us whether we live near a wind turbine or not.

First of all we have recently read that the former CEO of Navitas (the wind farm developer proposed for Lancaster Township) is under federal indictment for falsifying wind turbine performance. They say this is of no concern to the current local plans, but seems to me there should be a concern. I don’t think that many of us can overlook being lied to easily.

Proponents keep referring to wind energy as a “free” source but they forget that it will take millions of dollars to construct the turbines and rebuild the infrastructure (roads, power lines etc.) to accommodate their construction. That there are the several thousands of dollars needed to maintain and patrol all of the dead end access roads required for turbine maintenance. There is the cost of decommissioning the turbines once their usefulness and efficiency expires. Finally there will undoubtedly be additional costs to our electric bill as ComEd will pass along the costs of being required to purchase a portion of their electricity output from the wind turbines. I guess my thought is if ComEd felt that wind energy is the way to go for producing more efficient, economical energy they would be the ones promoting it.

Another real concern for all of us citizens is the promise of payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) plan that the wind farm developers so avidly offer. I just have a real problem with the equity of these promises and don’t understand why our county leader is pushing it like an infomercial pitch guy … “sign up now because this deal won’t last forever.” In this PILOT plan the wind farm developers would pay a pre-determined amount out to the county’s taxing bodies over a period of time (10 to 20 years) that the turbines are functional. Once that time is up the payments cease and the towers, no longer efficient or even functioning, are left to decay because the federal subsidies won’t be available to maintain them. Seems rather short-vision to me, trading 10 to 20 years of marginal return for a future of consequence that leaves the costly burden of removing the 400-foot structures to our children and grandchildren.

To understand the PILOT plan more clearly think how many of us have added onto our homes to accommodate growing families. Once constructed our homes are reassessed and duly taxed, however if we had a PILOT plan we could pay the county only for the years we feel that addition is useful … when the kids are gone we could stop paying.

The biggest concern that we all should have is how certain members of our county board have swayed many to believe that there are no alternatives but to push through with the construction of wind turbines. They have disregarded county zoning restrictions and recommendations (which exist to give residents a right of appeal) only to write their own rules which can lead to serious ramifications down the road. There was a concentrated effort to disallow the petitioned voice of nearly 1800 county residents who have various health, safety and financial concerns about the construction of these enormous structures. To throw out approximately 60 signatures as illegible … seriously? I think the chairman has underestimated and insulted the intelligence of the rural population in Stephenson County to think that so many can’t write their own name.

So, don’t fall for the sales pitch about wind farms in Stephenson County, understand how this will affect you, your neighbors and the future generations.

By the way, for all that have followed this ordeal online, I’m sure David H. will hide behind anonymity to rip me about this so I’d like to say let’s meet in person for discussion over coffee or a soda without all the slander.

Tom Moyer


The Journal-Standard

16 November 2007

URL to article: