FRANKLIN GROVE – When the Franklin Grove Wind Energy Investigative Committee met last Thursday night they considered some of the impacts the development of industrial wind energy systems with towers and turbines would likely have on the community.
Mayor Robert Logan, committee chair, asked that the committee and those attending focus on both the positive and negative impacts that would come if the village adopted a wind energy ordinance that allowed the towers and turbines to be built within the village zoning jurisdiction and within the 1.5 mile radius surrounding that jurisdiction.
While no one else in attendance was ready to point out the positives associated with a wind energy development, Logan stated that there are some and they include income to participating property owners, income to taxing districts, they are a source of renewable energy, and they do provide a number of jobs during the construction phase. Kelly Reagan Robery pointed out to the committee that a change in the way wind systems are taxed could greatly affect the revenue to any governing body. The validity of that point was acknowledged.
Negatives associated with the large turbines, often as high as 300 to 500 feet (approximately 4 to 5 times the height of a water tower, include putting neighbors and families at odds with each other, disruption during construction to both participating land owners and any others in the vicinity, very costly tax-subsidized startup costs, long-term relinquishment of landowner’s property rights to wind energy companies, recognized nuisances and potential health risks to neighbors, negative impact on surrounding property values, disruption of natural wildlife habitats, and they serve to block other types of development.
Money would seem to be the major driving force for those who favor wind energy systems, both privately and as governing bodies. Those opposed often are interested in preserving heritage, public health and safety, and quality of life issues.
It was noted that the national agenda seems to be driven by those favoring renewable energy at all costs, and that foreign investors from around the world are taking advantage of the large tax-supported subsides provided as incentives to build the towers. International wind energy companies are interested in the huge U.S. subsidies to a market that has largely disappeared in much of the rest of the world where it has been previously subsidized and supporting nations can no longer afford the cost benefit ratio that exists.
An attempt to assess the initial public opinion has shown that those opposing wind towers within the 1.5 mile radius of Franklin Grove are a discernable majority and have been much more openly involved in their attempt to educate and influence policy making. There is a vocal minority who have a vested interest in furthering wind energy, but have been unwilling to participate in open forums and instead have chosen to criticize persons, the manner, and the methods involved in formulating policy proposals.
Regulation of wind energy systems has been delegated to the cities, villages and towns when they are considered for construction within 1.5 miles of the corporate limits in Illinois. In doing so, authority and the accompanying responsibility was lifted from the counties and given to the municipalities. The state mandated the change, it lies with the local governments to maintain local control by responsible regulation.
While it can be said that some in the community would benefit financially, the new money would not prove to be a wind fall for the community as a whole due to the nature of the development and its location. The electricity generated would not serve the people of Franklin Grove and would not even serve to reduce the cost of electricity.
The negative aspects of the towers in most areas around Franklin Grove would render the natural and cultural heritage efforts of the hundreds of volunteers over the past thirty years to have been for naught.
Five particular areas were noted as having intrinsic value to the community, all of which are near the perimeter of the village, The Franklin Creek State Park, the Nachusa Grasslands, the Natural Area Guardians, Chaplin Creek Historic Site, and the Living History Antique Equipment Association Show site.
An area east of Franklin Grove and east of Willow Road and Route 38 would not seem to have the same cultural or natural value, though studies for environmental impact would be necessary. The impact on Lee County and Franklin Grove Township roads would have to be determined and allowance made for maintenance and repairs.
It was suggested that a binding decommissioning plan should be in place to insure that any towers built would be removed when they reached the end of their service life or in the event the owners were unable to complete the project., so that participating land owners and governing bodies would not be left hoiding the bag for their removal.
The wind energy investigative committee will meet again on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. in the village hall to examine other issues necessary to develop a written policy on the construction and operation of Industrial Wind Energy Systems. The topics of discussion during that meeting will be: environmental impact, public health and safety issues. telecommunications interference, good neighbor incentives, and notification requirements. An agenda will be posted at the village hall.
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