Pratt, Kan. – Ed and Lisa Petrowsky, who once opposed countywide zoning, now say that they might find it useful. The Petrowskys are now opposed to Indeck building a wind farm in their neighborhood and are looking for some help in preventing it.
The issue started a couple of years ago, according to Lisa Petrowsky, who spoke at a Pratt County Commission meeting this week.
“Richard Jarboe, as a representative for Indeck, had a vision of creating a wind farm north of Pratt in a corridor from Highway 281 west, approximately to his family’s farm,” said Lisa. “This was rapidly shot down by the FAA because it was too close to the airport. There were public meetings and some people were very firmly opposed to wind energy gaining a foothold in our area. Later, Jarboe, according to Lisa, invited them to a meeting where he proposed erecting wind turbines on their property, which was adjacent to Jarboe family property.
“Our first thought was that no sane spray pilot would get near one, so we immediately called Farmer’s Spraying Service from the meeting and the owner told us not only would he not treat a field with one of the towers, but he also would not care to do the application, if the tower was in an adjacent field.
The Petrowskys did a little research and this is what they say they learned about wind farms:
1. Wind turbines are the most expensive to build for the return in power generated, while at the same time the most unreliable. However, the state is enamored of the idea of “green energy” and encourages them.
2. The presence of a wind turbine seriously curbs the owner, or tenants’ use of the land. One horrifying example we were given, was of a man who thought there could be no harm in leasing his pasture to a wind company. To his dismay, he learned that his grandchildren could no longer ride their 4-wheelers in the pasture. A court case has determined that once a wind turbine is erected, even if it is on the edge of a field, or in the very corner, that land is now primarily designated for energy and therefore agriculture, recreation, sport, etc. can be prohibited by the wind company.
3. Wind energy is very inefficient and there is much skepticism that the companies actually make a profit. If the projects are abandoned, like the Gateway Ethanol albatross, there is no stipulation in the contracts for the wind company to remove the towers from leaseholders property.
According to Lisa, no amount of lease money could have enticed the couple to erect the towers on their land.
“We did not call our neighbors and advise them against it, we did not print editorials on the subject in the paper, we simply declined to fall in with Richard Jarboe and Indeck’s plan,” said Lisa. “I will say the ethanol plant standing on the horizon as a constant reminder of his original vision for Pratt County, might have influenced our decision.”
Apparently Indeck changed their plans and moved the tower array further to the west in their latest design and was granted approval by the FAA for general aviation, according to Lisa.
“There are no proposed towers which would impede instrument air traffic in, or out, of Pratt Regional Airport,” said Lisa.”For some reason, area pilots were unaware, until there were only a handful of days remaining in the comment period.”
The people at the airport were under the impression that it concerned a dozen, or so, towers being erected, according to Lisa.
“Imagine the consternation when the map was opened and there were nearly 70 towers being proposed in Northwest Pratt County,” said Lisa. “This would virtually shut down aerial application. This will have a serious negative effect in agriculture, the backbone of the Pratt County economy. We enjoy some of the highest aquifer recharge in the nation at a time when we are facing a global food crisis. Why would anyone deliberately hinder this?”
What was extremely upsetting to the Petroskys, was the location of several of the towers – one being on property they rent. They felt they should have been notified of the proposal and one particular tower proposed for their land also impacts another family member, who owns adjacent property.
“One of the items discussed at the airport meeting, was that the towers require a 1,000 foot diameter footprint,” said Lisa. “I’ll do the math for you – that is 56-acres.
“This project has been carried out to great secrecy and has been in place for quite awhile, judging by the lack of time now given for response by the public,” continued Lisa. “I would like to know if landowners who have made a commitment to leasing to Indeck, have signed some kind of non-disclosure clause to prevent them from discussing this openly in public, and if so, why?”
The coffee shop and co-op farm store grapevine is rather efficient at spreading news, according to Lisa.
Secrets are hard to keep in this close-knit community,” commented Lisa. “It is my experience that nothing wholesome is done, sneaking around in the dark.”
Lisa said she believes the towers must be set back a reasonable distance from adjoining property. Her attorney, reportedly, has advised her that 1,500 feet would be a minimum to ask. The wind is being treated as a valuable natural resource. She wants to know if the wind farm is stealing her wind. She says she is emphatic that no tower should be closer than a mile from a residence unless the owner signs a waiver.
She said she believes children living at home and heirs should be apprised of the health risks (or the possible inability to sell property in the future) and also sign the waiver. All across the nation there is a big push by the public to block wind farms as there is by companies determined to build them, according to Lisa.
The main cause of action against the wind turbines is noise, the above-mentioned interference with standard farming practices, and the constant flashing of light between the spinning blades.
“Last, but by no means least, it is my understanding (and someone should correct me if I am misinformed), that the energy produced will not stay in Pratt County, or be of any benefit to us,” said Lisa. “Also, if the primary use of the land shifts from agriculture to energy, I would expect the tax base to change. Failure by the county to do so would be an act of economic discrimination.”
Lisa said she had included an aerial photo of the wind farm at Montezuma.
“It is very neatly laid out and appears to maximize the space,” concluded Lisa. “The area chosen for that wind farm has a very low population density. The Jarboe/Indeck scheme is ill-conceived in comparison, or it simply goes miles out of the way to inconvenience a handful of individuals.”