After living in solitude for 30 years on a Somerset County hilltop, Ginny Deeter said her peace is being interrupted.
Stuck in the shadows of a countywide wind energy movement, views from the windows of Deeter’s home are slowly being filled by towers.
“Come out and look,” Deeter said. “Until you come out and look, you won’t understand.”
Companies like California-based Edison Mission are leasing local ground, including property near Deeter’s home, to construct wind turbines. Thirteen towers have been constructed near Deeter’s home along unpaved Ackerman Road. Two of them loom over her house.
“If there are problems, we don’t even know a contact person,” she said.
An Edison official said the energy company is more than willing to discuss problems with project neighbors.
“We want to be as good of neighbors as possible,” Edison spokesman Charley Parnell said. “We expect them (concerned neighbors) to reach out to us.”
But Deeter said no one from Edison ever came knocking on her door.
“They should reach out to us,” she said.
The distance towers must stand from occupied structures – called a setback – is dictated by a Somerset County ordinance.
Deeter said her home is about 1,400 feet from the nearest wind turbine, which means the developer does not have to contact her for a waiver to complete the project.
Bill Lehman, a planner with the Somerset County Planning Commission, said Edison’s wind farm near Deeter’s home was reviewed and approved by the board.
“All the developer has to do is provide certification of the setback from occupied structures,” said Lehman, noting that the distance is determined by the tower’s height. “A surveyor is required to certify the setback.”
After the towers are built, the county has little to do with the daily operation of wind farms, Lehman said.
Deeter has done research on her new neighbors – she has stacks of literature explaining the pros and cons of wind turbines. Rumors of ice throwing, noise problems and disturbed satellite reception have her skeptical about living next to online towers.
“I have nothing against wind power, but you don’t know what to think,” she said, gesturing to the idle towers less than a quarter-mile from her back door. “What is it going to be like when everything is in and operating?”
The towers are projected to go online by the end of October.
Parnell said Edison officials do not anticipate the wind farm will cause problems for neighboring landowners.
“Other than visual, which you can’t avoid with turbines,” he said.
Parnell said their towers are checked daily by local crews and if any problems are found, they are shut down.
“If ice is found accumulating, we turn them off,” Parnell said.
But if the rumors are true and Deeter opts to leave her home in the hills, she said her property value has been severely lessened by the towers. Deeter said a property appraiser told her that her home became virtually worthless after the towers were built.
According to Parnell, studies on the wind industry’s impact on property values in the United States vary.
“There is a lot of discussion back and forth,” he said. “Studies say both ways, we don’t know indeed for sure if towers do impact property values.”
He noted that pre-construction wind studies dictate tower locations.
One local real estate agent maintains the phrase “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” may hold true for property near wind turbines.
“The price may suffer a little,” said Ken Halverson, a real estate agent with Northwood Reality Services in Somerset. “Some people are enamored by them.”
Others loathe the thought of towers dotting county hillsides. Local wind turbine opposition groups have cited forest fragmentation and the harming of wildlife as ecological problems towers cause.
For now, the wind turbines around Deeter’s home are idle; although they will soon be spinning, producing energy that will be pushed onto a grid for public use.
“I saw this as a place to get away,” Deeter said while standing on her front porch pointing to a test tower on the opposite hilltop – the first omen of more wind turbines to come.
By Rick Kazmer
Daily American Staff Writer
25 July 2008
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