There is and has been much discussion and controversy about wind turbines in Boone County as well as many other areas. I would like to paint a word picture of my views of the situation.
In my opinion, there are two groups that are strongly in favor of wind turbines. They are venture capitalists and environmentalists.
The venture capitalists are enthusiastic about making money, with someone else paying the majority of the freight. I say this because the 400-foot wind turbines that are being constructed today cost $2 million. A turbine would have to last almost 50 years to pay for itself and then start creating a profit. However, since the investors only pay one-quarter of the cost, they eventually make a profit, again at someone else’s expense.
Speaking of turbine life expectance, the largest wind turbine farm in this country, 1,600 turbines, was built in the mid-’80s near San Francisco. It did not last 25 years and today sits abandoned. It is not the only wind farm that has been abandoned, it is just the largest.
Also, consider the fact that they only run 30 percent of the time – how short would be their lifetime if they ran anywhere near 100 percent of the time? If you question the 30 percent figure, think of anytime you have been down Interstate 39 or in Southern California, near Palm Springs, and wondered why there are so many not running.
And then about the environmentalists, who love the idea of wind turbines. Their first thought is, “Oh, the wind is free.” Is it really free if it costs $2 million per turbine to harvest it?
Then if you quote engineers and scientists saying that the rhythmic thumping of the sound, a pattern found at a distance from the turbines of up to nine-tenths of a mile, but not immediately under or among the turbines, can be sufficient to prevent or interrupt sleep and even cause migraine headaches for some people. Ignoring that fact, environmentalists tend to think only “the wind is free and turbines do not pollute.”
Or explain to them that in 2003, before the 2006 and 2007 drop on real-estate property, in the Township of Lincoln, Wis., everything within one mile of turbines was selling at 78 percent of assessed valuation, but in the same area before turbines, property had been selling for 104 percent of assessed valuation. In England the property devaluation has been concluded to be 30 percent and in Denmark similar results. Anyone who questions wind turbines devaluating neighboring property should ask Realtors, not wind turbine people. Realtors have nothing to gain by giving a wrong answer. Ignoring that fact, environmentalists tend to think only “the wind is free and turbines do not pollute.”
And isn’t it strange that many of the Boone County Board members who live south of Illinois 173 seem so willing to gamble on property values of landowners north of Illinois 173 – ignoring the many petitioners who expressed their negative feelings toward wind turbines?
Also, one can tell environmentalists that wind turbines are pretty devastating to the farmland at or near the site of the turbines. The towers, turbines and blades combined weigh more than 300 tons, thus substantial roadways with a solid base must be built between the main roads or near the turbines. Just imagine the weight of the heavy crane for erection, the heavy trucks hauling the more than 300 tons of equipment and the many mixer trucks for the base platform. The concrete base upon which each turbine sits is 30 feet by 50 feet. At the last Belvidere meeting, it was stated that it need only be 8 feet deep. However, I was told that the bases in Lee County, where the turbines are only 200 feet tall, are 15 feet deep so it would seem that if the turbines are twice as tall and weigh twice as much then the base should be twice as deep. That’s a lot of concrete, but the base must outweigh the tower and turbine so as not to tip over. Ignoring that fact, environmentalists tend to think only “the wind is free and turbines do not pollute.”
And one last thing, wind turbines do not save on imported oil. Except for the small amount generated by wind turbines and water power, 98 percent of the electricity in this country is generated with coal and nuclear energy. [editor’s note: Coal and nuclear generate 70% of the electricity in the U.S.: roughly 50% coal and 20% nuclear; hydro generates about 8% and natural gas about 20%.] Again, ignoring that fact, environmentalists tend to think only “the wind is free and turbines do not pollute.”
Now someone thinks that oil is used to generate electricity because it is used to mine coal and transport it to the power plants. Well, how about the oil used for making the steel towers, and manufacturing the blades and turbines, and transporting them to the construction site, and finally the erection.
Realistically speaking, if the setback requirement is great enough that it does not have a negative effect upon people and does not devaluate neighbors’ property, and in so doing, prevents some areas from erecting wind turbines, is that really serious? After all, the wind is not really free when the cost to harvest it is so extreme. Also, if only part of the money that the government has donated, and will donate in the future, to venture capitalists in the turbine business was used for scientific research to create clean-burning coal we would then eliminate that pollution.
Furthermore, if turbines can never generate enough electricity to pay for themselves, and if government pays the majority of their cost, then they are an additional drain on the nation’s economy – and if they are only 30 percent efficient – and if they are detrimental to the health of people living at even a much greater distance than 1,000 feet, then why, oh why, is Boone County even considering reducing the setback from 2,000 to 1,000 feet?
Don Ellingson is a longtime Boone County resident.
8 July 2008
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