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The noise moved in next to the homeowners

In Thursday’s Journal Sentinel, I talk with the neighbors of some wind projects. Frankly, I think wind turbines are pretty atop the ridge south of Fond du Lac, but I don’t live near them. Gerry Meyer does, and he recounts just how loud they are – like a jet plane flying over, or like boots in the clothes dryer.

That’s why, he tells me, he thinks the 1,800-foot line specified in Gov. Scott Walker’s bill on wind turbine siting makes sense. It isn’t a setback – rather, the bill simply requires that anyone putting a wind turbine closer than 1,800 feet to a property line get the permission of the owner on the other side.

Wind advocates say that will kill wind power in Wisconsin. It’s “highly unlikely,” said Clean Wisconsin’s Keith Reopelle, that developers would want to negotiate with neighbors, much less pay them compensation, the likely means by which such permission would be gained.

Besides, said Reopelle, it’s not as if wind turbines are the only noisy thing out there. He mentioned how he used to live along the edge of Interstate 90 south of Madison.

“We’ve never talked about monetary compensation for people who live near highways,” he said.

True enough, but there’s a critical difference: I-90 was a freeway long before Reopelle ever moved next to it. By comparison, rural southern Fond du Lac County was field and wood until about two years ago. Characteristic noises would include the footfalls of deer. “I have not seen a deer here since construction began,” said Meyer, and the owls and hawks that used to frequent his woodlot are gone, too. While someone choosing to live near a freeway is moving next to the noise nowadays (since we’re not building new freeways), in the case of wind farms, the noise is moving in.