ST. HENRY – St. Henry resident Jim Niekamp is among a group of area residents who want to inform their communities about the possible effects of industrial wind turbines in the Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches.
The Land of Cross-Tipped Churches covers the western part of Ohio and is centered near Maria Stein. The moniker comes from the dense concentration of Catholic churches in the area.
“There were federal mandates that were passed for renewable energy so that by 2025, 25 percent of our energy had to come from alternative sources of energy and half of that had to come from renewable – which means it has to come from a source that cannot be extinguished,” Niekamp said, noting that there was a similar state mandate passed as well.
“In relation to wind energy, there’s very few renewable opportunities that are really viable – wind is about the only viable energy that can be added to our mix,” Niekamp said. “Therefore, there’s a huge push for adding windmills all through the state of Ohio.”
As a result of these mandates, Niekamp said energy companies have been targeting different areas of Ohio, speaking with landowners – typically farmers – about leasing portions of their land.
“They do this without telling the entire community what their intentions are for that project,” Niekamp said. “This is where the issue comes up.”
In many cases, Niekamp said the landowners have limited information about what their neighbors think or what the impact of the wind turbines might be on the community.
“Many landowners are put in a bad position because they didn’t realize the neighbors really didn’t want the turbines,” he said.
Niekamp said typically there is enough room for three or four industrial wind turbines on the properties.
“These things are not like a windmill that you see on a regular farm,” he said. “It’s not the height of a silo. These things are over 400 feet tall.”
As a frame of reference, Niekamp said the church steeple in St. Henry is 205 feet tall.
Local residents have voiced a number of concerns when it comes to the construction of these industrial wind turbines, Niekamp said. One concern is that approximately 30 percent of the cost to build the turbines is funded by the federal government.
“Some people are very upset about that, especially in a time period when we are so extended financially,” he said.
The cost of renewable energy is another factor on peoples’ minds.
“If I mandated that I have to have a certain percentage to be renewable, that makes the cost basis go up for the cost of electricity, and that gets passed on to everybody – businesses and homeowners alike,” he said. “So some people are upset about that.”
Health issues that result from living close to an industrial wind turbine are yet another concern.
“There are some areas around the country – not all people, but some people – that are experiencing sleep disturbance because of the noise that they make, or a thing called flicker, where the sun shines and the blades cause a little flickering effect,” Niekamp said.
Some people are also concerned about property value of homes near the wind turbines decreasing, which could in turn, have an impact on the tax base of the community as well, Niekamp said. Still, others are worried that instead of the historical cross-tipped churches, the area’s scenery will be dominated by 400-foot turbines.
To better inform the public, two meetings will be held next week. One meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the American Legion in Maria Stein.
The second informational meeting will be held at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Knights of Columbus in Fort Recovery. Both meetings are open to the public.
Niekamp said there is a chance the second meeting may be changed to the American Legion in Fort Recovery if the size of the crowd is large enough.
“The idea of the informational meeting is to let everybody know what the projection is for this project so that they can voice their opinion of whether they want it or don’t want it,” Niekamp said.
“The more informed we are, the easier it is for us to go ahead and make a very good, informed decision.”
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