A 50-page report on wind turbine issues generated by Champaign County officials released this week offers a look at a wide range of topics that both wind developers and neighboring property owners see as a well-researched and potentially valuable tool for the future.
The document covers 14 topics including everything from commonly discussed noise and shadow issues to how turbines affect television reception and aesthetics.
It was prepared by the Wind Turbine Siting Group at the request of Champaign County Prosecutor Nick Selvaggio, who wrote in an introductory letter that it is not intended as model legislation but as a tool with recommendations local leaders can use when making their own decisions.
Wes Dodds, a planner for the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission, said a Logan County committee working on a similar document is in the final stages of collecting information, but the report has not been written, a process Mr. Selvaggio said took three months.
Mike Speerschneider, a WTSG member who represents Everpower Renewables, said while there are still unresolved issues he believes the report takes the two sides a few steps closer to bridging the gap.
“There are definitely good points brought up and a healthy discussion went into this,” he said. “There are still some differences in opinion that have to be worked out on all levels.”
Everpower is planning a wind farm in northern Champaign and southern Logan counties and while Mr. Speerschneider said that project will likely go before the Ohio Power Siting Board for approval, the information in the report would be a strong backbone to address local concerns during that process.
“This will help the project be something very beneficial to the community,” he said. “It will work with the power siting board. Our approach to development is to work with (local officials) and we will certainly continue our dialogue with them.”
Susan Reames, a Logan County resident and skeptic of wind developers’ claims, said Friday she had not had time to fully digest the report, but was impressed with the bibliography that references 79 individual studies and reports, including two information packets with an additional 38 documents.
“I am very impressed with the amount of time and diligence Champaign County put into it,” she said.
But she does not believe it will bridge the gap separating developers and the neighbors who would like stricter zoning.
“I’m not sure that is going to happen,” she said. “We’re talking about people who have a good financial reason pursuing what they want and that can be a big motivator.”
Some highlights from the report:
• There is a 13-page discussion of how low-frequency noise or infrasound, noise that is below levels audible to humans, can affect people.
Scientist and doctors know very little about the issue although Dr. Nina Pierpont and Dr. Amanda Harry have done work in the area that preliminarily indicates health concerns may exist because of long-term exposure. Dr. Pierpont is also conducting more in-depth studies on the issue that have yet to be published.
Opponents of those theories argue that low-frequency noise is no more than a potential public annoyance.
• Another point of dispute is whether setbacks and noise measurement should begin at property lines or at existing residences.
Those who argue that it should begin at the property line say they should be given consideration for future development of their land and that issues such as ice or blade throw should not be allowed to affect their property.
Near the end of the report, one section recommends a minimum property line setback of hub height plus rotor radius, or about 450 feet for a 300-foot turbine with 150-foot blades. Safe setbacks for ice shedding, according to a GE Energy report cited, is 1.5 times the height of the hub and rotor diameter, or about 900 feet for the same turbine.
• A Dutch study by R.H. Bolton indicated shadows can be as long as two miles when a similar size turbine is on a 700-foot ridge. Ridges in this area, however, are closer to 200 feet and shadows would not be as long. Also the sun is lower in the sky in Europe because of its latitude, increasing the duration of long shadows, the report notes.
The report then recommends using software to analyze where shadows will be cast and placing turbines appropriately.
• It also recommends zoning boards plan ahead for decommisioning, or the process by which wind developers are required to dismantle and remove wind turbines when either they are no longer functional or the company decides to abandon a project. The report suggests the Pennsylvania Model Ordinance for Wind Energy Generating Facilities as a good example of such legislation.
By Reuben Mees
Examiner Staff Writer
24 May 2008
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