ARGOS – A simple informational presentation turned into ground for heated discussion Thursday in the Argos High School gym.
Next Era Energy, a Fortune 200 company based in Florida, held an open house in the gym to inform area residents about the proposed wind turbine park in Marshall and Fulton counties. Energy from wind turbines is renewable, produces no pollution, uses no water, and is compatible with farming. Representatives from the company were taken aback, however, when a couple from Illinois arrived at the event and began asking questions.
David and Stephanie Hulthen, of Dekalb County, Ill., said that they have experienced numerous problems with Next Era turbines near their home, including shadow flicker (the flickering shadow that appears repeatedly when the turbines are turning) and sound.
“It sounds like an airplane in my home,” said Stephanie Hulthen, speaking of the impact the turbines have on her family of six, including four young children. The Hulthens have 13 turbines within a mile of their home, and two are 1,400 feet away.
Their blog, www.lifewithdekalbturbines.blogspot.com, chronicles their struggles with the atmosphere of the wind turbines.
Mary Wells, from Next Era’s corporate communication office, declined to comment on the Hulthen’s claims and said that the couple is in the midst of a lawsuit against Next Era.
Information at the open house showed the impact the turbine park would have on the area. The park would cover about 17,000 acres and include 40-70 turbines,producing power for 28,000 homes. The power collected by the turbines goes to a utility company such as NIPSCO and is then distributed to area homes.
“A lot of people think we connect straight to homes, but we don’t do that,” said Angela Warm, senior environmental specialist for Next Era.
Warm noted that no homeowner would be obligated to participate in the project, and that homeowners would be compensated monetarily if a turbine was built on their property.
Culver residents Travis and Amanda Dexter are also concerned about the turbines—namely, their distance from residences. Travis Dexter stated that the Marshall County’s current ordinance is that the setback distance between a house and a turbine is 1,000 feet, but he thinks that the distance should be increased to 2,640 feet (half a mile). He is also concerned that the shadow flicker and sounds from the turbines will bother his young daughter and wife who both suffer from motion sickness. Dexter said that some who live in a turbine area have complained of wind turbine syndrome, characterized by headaches, insomnia, anxiety and dizziness caused by the low-frequency noise from the turbines.
“Not everyone is affected, but there is a risk,” said Dexter. “My main concern is the 1,000 foot setback distance in Marshall County and how it could affect my family.”
Paul Dockery, a Next Era representative, said that the wind turbine park will bring jobs to area communities. Next Era will need to hire construction workers over the six-month building period, and the turbine park will require eight full-time staff for troubleshooting and scheduled services. Dockery said that the company plans to advertise locally for workers once they have received the permit to build from the county. Next Era also anticipates paying $22 million in property taxes to the county. Next Era passed out results of a phone survey taken among registered voters in Marshall and Fulton counties in April. The survey results show that among the random sample of 401 registered voters, 77 percent supported the proposed wind energy park in the area.
That support was not represented at the open house, as several attendees reflected a negative attitude about the turbine park.
“Every energy source has bad sides to it,” said Wells. “No energy source is perfect.”
Next Era has been researching bat and bird activity in the two counties since putting up meteorological towers last September. The company has wind turbine parks in other areas of the country including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Illinois.
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