The Adams County Board approved revisions to its wind ordinance Tuesday night during a lengthy meeting that featured more than 20 public speakers, paving the way for a possible $300 million development in the county.
The revisions increase the setback of wind turbines from primary structures of non-participating landowners to 1,320 feet from 1,000 feet. The revisions also include requirements for shadow flicker mitigation and minimizing the impact on wildlife. The setback from school property lines was set at 1,500 feet.
“Now we just sit and wait and see if we get an application from the wind turbine company,” County Board Chairman Mike McLaughlin said. “It’s kind of like the ball is in their court at this point.”
All board members agreed to the revisions with a voice vote, except John Brady, R-6, and Mark Peter, R-5. Both abstained because of potential conflicts of interest. Both have family members who have been asked to sign leases.
Les Post, R-6, announced ahead of the vote that he would support the project even though he has been approached about leasing land for wind turbines.
“It is true that I live on property in the middle of the Prairie Mills project, and I have been approached both before and after becoming a member of the board to consider becoming a participant,” Post said. “I want to make it very clear that I nor any of my immediate family have signed any leases, and I have no intentions at this time to do so. I do not believe I have a conflict of interest, and I have every intention of voting on this project.”
The County Board also approved a last-minute amendment that turbines be set back at least 1.5 times their height from property lines. The amendment was requested by Todd Duesterhaus, D-2, who said he thought the increased distance would be safer.
Acciona Energy North America is working with Global Winds Harvest to develop the $300 million Prairie Mills Wind Farm in the Camp Point, Clayton and Golden vicinity.
Seven of the 21 public speakers were against the ordinance as it was introduced to the County Board.
John Gebhardt, spokesman for the Advocates for Responsible Energy Development, said the group would attend any future public hearings on permitting issues. The group introduced additional amendments that included increasing setbacks to 1,500 from the property line, introduce a stronger shadow flicker plan and require that noise levels are not increased on a non-participants property.
“Once the siting of the turbines has been done people will finally realize what we’ve been trying to tell them, and people will start to realize how close they’re going to be to their homes,” he said. “Based on what we were hearing from the DeKalb people, they’re at 1,400 feet, and they’ve got noise and shadow flicker problems.
“Our ordinance says 1,320 feet. So if the company decides to go that close, then our residents are going to have the same problem as the DeKalb residents, and that’s unfortunate.”
DeKalb county couple Dave and Stephanie Hulthen spoke to the County Board during the public comment portion of the meeting about problems with shadow flicker and noise they have experienced from nearby wind turbines. The Hulthens live within 1,400 feet of two wind turbines and within a mile of 13. The couple blogs about their experiences online.
Shawn Valter, manager of the Adams County Farm Bureau, said the bureau surveyed residents at the Adams County Fair on wind energy and found that out of 126 questionnaires returned, 103 people supported developing wind farms within the county, 13 were opposed and 10 didn’t know enough about wind energy.
“The Illinois Farm Bureau looks at wind farms as preservation of farmland, because once those go up out there, the majority of things that is going to be happening out there is farming,” he said.
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