This column is a follow-up to SVN Reporter David Giuliani’s article on March 22 regarding Lee County’s wind energy ad hoc committee. As someone who attended all eight meetings and served on the committee for the last three, I would like to share my perspective.
First, the committee was dissolved prematurely. None of the most important issues, including noise, setbacks, shadow flicker, property values and decommissioning, were given due consideration. The fact that the committee spent about 10 minutes out of the entire eight meetings on setbacks (easily the most important issue before the committee) speaks to the inadequacy of the entire process.
In his haste to dissolve the committee, Chairman Ron Conderman nearly forgot to continue discussions on decommissioning, which were tabled during the previous meeting in order to seek advice from State’s Attorney Henry Dixon. Mr. Dixon confused the issue by first scolding both zoning officer Chris Henkel and me that the county needs to be careful not to interfere with a contractual agreement between a wind developer and a landowner, seemingly siding with one committee member’s suggestion that the county should stay out of the decommissioning issue.
Then Mr. Dixon went on to say that the county should address decommissioning and referenced (I believe) the non-operational Nelson power plant. I understand that the county needs to avoid interfering with private-party contracts, but a decommissioning clause is needed to establish the requirements for removing non-functioning turbines and to protect the county in the event that the wind farm owner abandons its turbines and the landowners do not have the means to take them down. The complexity of this particular issue became very evident, but we had to quit because the chairman’s decision to dissolve the committee had already been made.
I sure hope all you landowners out there wanting wind turbines on your property understand that it may be your responsibility to take them down when the turbine owner pulls the plug. I think I’d start saving my money. Better yet, I’d require a security deposit so that if my tenant skipped town, I wouldn’t have to empty my retirement account in order to dispose of his junk.
I would also like to clarify my recommendation for a $250,000 complaint resolution fund as reported by Mr. Giuliani. At first glance, this may seem like an outrageous figure, but it’s chump change for a $200 million wind project. For a 100-turbine wind farm, it equates to $2,500 a turbine to handle complaints arising from noise, shadow flicker, TV reception problems, etc. Suddenly, it doesn’t sound like enough, unless the county does the right thing and increases the setbacks to acceptable levels.
So the committee has been dissolved with a lot of questions unanswered. The chairman’s consistent pushing for committee members to submit recommendations to the zoning board rather than have open discussions about the issues didn’t help matters.
The zoning board has a lot of work left to do. I hope they take it seriously and don’t quit on us.
Note to readers – Steve Robery is a licensed professional engineer with 24 years experience, employed for the last 9 years by the Illinois Department of Transportation in Dixon. He lives with his wife of 19 years, Kelly, in rural Franklin Grove.
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