PRINCETON – The Big Sky wind farm developers want people to know they’re not dragging their feet when it comes to finding solutions to the complaints filed against the rural Ohio wind farm.
Big Sky site manager Blake Connolly addressed the Bureau County Board at Tuesday’s meeting at the Bureau County Courthouse in Princeton, saying studies are being done to see the extent of the problems, which include television reception interference, shadow flickering in homes and too much noise from the wind turbines.
For the past two months, the Bureau County Board has heard from Ohio area residents who say Big Sky is taking too long to get those problems corrected and they also want the county board to strengthen its zoning ordinances concerning wind farms.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Connolly said he wants to assure the county board and residents that Edison Mission Group, the developer of Big Sky, is taking aggressive action to find solutions to the problems.
“I want you to know the company does not take any of this lightly. We are taking aggressive action. I would apologize to those who feel we have not taken appropriate action in their viewpoint,” Connolly said. “It is our intent to be a good corporate neighbor and to do the right thing for the residents. We have met all requirements of our permits and will continue to do so.”
Concerning the television interference complaints, Connolly said Big Sky hired an professional company to perform a survey of the site and also installed new equipment at a couple homes as test sites.
The study’s data and documented research indicate possible sources of the reception problem could be the recent transition from analog to digital transmitting towers and also older equipment in the homes, Connolly said.
“Although that report indicates Big Sky is not the cause of the TV reception issues, we believe it is our responsibility to work with those complainants to help resolve those issues, and we intend to do so,” Connolly said.
Additional studies are being done by engineering firms on the shadow flickering and noise problems. The shadow flickering study will cover the entire Big Sky area, not just those homes where complaints have been filed.
The noise study is being conducted at residents’ homes to analyze sound levels and make sure the wind farm is not in violation of any Illinois Pollution Act criteria. If something does exceed standards, Big Sky will have to look at its equipment and see where the problem is, Connolly said.
Reports on the two studies are expected to be completed within the next three weeks. From there, the reports will be discussed internally, with some kind of answers available in seven weeks from Tuesday night’s county board meeting, Connolly said.
One possible solution Big Sky does not consider as an option is shutting down its turbines during certain times of the day, Connolly said.
“Honestly, knowing the dollars invested in the project, when I look at the wind studies in this area and look at production time of the wind farm, you are looking at operations of this wind farm that are under 40 percent,” Connolly said. “We are limited to the wind. So when the wind is blowing, that is the time to make electricity and to pay off the debt of the wind farm. As a business, it is not an option to shut the turbines down.”
Also addressing the county board, Edison Mission Group Communications Director Susan Olavarria said the Edison Mission Group has never received the level of complaints which it has received with Big Sky. Handling and processing the complaints has been a learning curve for the company, which owns 30 wind farms in 10 states.
Olavarria said she would meet with each and every resident to hear their concerns and work on solutions to their problems.
“What we want to do is fix it and get this resolved,” Olavarria said.
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