When Nextera Energy paid a visit recently to Culver’s Kiwanis Club, the basic information presented was similar to that at a meeting in Argos the previous week (see Lydia Beers’ article here: http://www.thepilotnews.com/content/wind-turbine-project-raises-controversy), but several in the audience raised questions and concerns more specific to the Culver-Lake Maxinkuckee area.
After some initial debate over subsidies and other non-local matters, presenter Paul Dockery continued with his presentation, showing a map of Marshall County with a roughly circular outline of the area intended for placement of the 40 to 70 402-foot towers the company would set up, which would include 37,000 acres in Green, Union, Richland, and now Walnut Townships. Placement would fall in the eastern end of Union Township, with each tower taking about one and a half acres out of production on land leased from local landowners.
Dockery showed the audience several photos he’d taken of Lake Maxinkuckee from various vantage points, with wind turbines digitally added to simulate the altered skyline view should the towers be placed. He noted the closest turbine would be about 1.5 miles from the lake. The most affected view was that from Culver’s Town Park, facing south, where 18 of the towers could be partially seen in the distance. Few if any were visible from the east shore of the lake, as Dockery noted the wooded landscape and higher elevation west of Lake Maxinkuckee obscure the towers there. A view from the Culver Academies golf course showed no apparent turbines, though Dockery said one would be visible behind one tree in the photo.
Audience member Patty Stallings, noting Culver is a retirement, lake, and private educationally strong community, noted locals are “really interested in our environment: what we see, feel, and hear. I understand you’re bringing jobs to the area. I see things (beneficial) for the county in this, but are there some positive things for us (locally)?”
In reply, Dockery reiterated an earlier point that the project, if approved, would bring eight full-time jobs to the area, $24 million in land payments to area owners, and around $22 million in property taxes. But, he added, “The answer is, you’re part of the energy consumers of the US; you consume natural gas, coal, and others. You won’t see a smog reduction (or other obvious changes), but you’re part of a regional mix of energy. When we flip the lights on, we forget it has to come from somewhere.”
He also noted towers can be something of a tourist attraction.
Audience member Dick Swennumson, following up on Dockery’s comment that wind occurs less in summer, asked how the turbines will help offset the increased demand for energy in summertime.
“Wind is not the whole solution to the energy problem,” said Dockery. “I believe it has attributes that would benefit Indiana’s overall energy portfolio.”
In response to another question, he said there are too many variables to determine if the cost of electricity would go down for Marshall County residents should the project succeed.
Mary Wells, of Nextera, noted the development timeline for such projects is two to five years total, though once design is complete, the county permitting timeline is a few months. Audience member Russ Mason noted the county requires a bond from the company that the turbines be removed should the project be abandoned. Nextera presently has three towers set up for meteorological testing in the area, with data still being gathered as to the long-term viability of the project.
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