MORRISON – A Whiteside County committee is fine with the required distance between houses and wind turbines.
The County Board’s Public Works Committee voted unanimously Monday to keep that distance at 1,400 feet, which is a little more than a quarter-mile. Some have requested the county increase it.
The setback distance is typically a big issue when wind energy companies propose industrial turbines. Residents often complain that turbines create noise, cause shadow flicker and ruin scenery.
Lee County’s setback is also 1,400 feet. A committee there is expected to review that distance soon.
A few years ago, when Whiteside County enacted its requirement, it was greater than any other county in the state, said Stu Richter, the county’s planning and zoning administrator. Since then, a couple of counties have slightly surpassed it.
The committee had a short discussion about the issue Monday. Most members immediately agreed that the 1,400-foot setback was still the right distance.
Member Doug Wetzell, R-Deer Grove, said he would have liked a greater setback. But after looking at how the existing requirement affected Deer Grove, he said the proposed turbines would be kept reasonably far.
He joined the others – Bill McGinn, D-Sterling; Glenn Frank, R-Morrison; John Espinoza, D-Rock Falls; and James Arduini, D-Sterling – in supporting the current setback.
In the spring, the county announced that Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Energy planned a wind farm north of Deer Grove, which is 11 miles south of Rock Falls. It would extend from Lee and Bureau counties.
In response to the news of the wind farm, the board of trustees for Deer Grove, population 48, unanimously voted to regulate turbines within 1.5 miles of the village limits.
The company plans 190 turbines for the three counties, only a small fraction of which would be in Whiteside County, the company says.
Some, including Deer Grove Mayor Al Thompson, want a greater required distance between turbines and houses.
Whiteside County doesn’t have any wind farms yet.
At the last meeting of the Public Works Committee, member Frank, who took part in a recent County Board tour of wind farms, said he didn’t consider noise to be a problem with turbines.
Sterling resident Amanda Norris said at Monday’s meeting that Frank’s remark concerned her.
“If this were a thorough and balanced tour, it would have included a resident or two, where complaints of noise or [shadow] flicker had been reported,” she said during the public input portion of the meeting.
She said residents expect board members to investigate all aspects of wind farms and not “be led by the very developers who will profit most from bringing industrial wind generation into our rural communities.”
Two Deer Grove-area farmers, Gary Clark and Earl Coers, also spoke, saying they had signed agreements with Mainstream for the siting of turbines.
Clark said the nation needed renewable energy such as wind, while Coers contended he had the right to put what he wanted on his farm as long as it didn’t harm others.
The committee plans to continue its review of the county’s wind farm rules at its meeting on Aug. 2.
The Whiteside County Board’s Public Works Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at the county Highway Department, 18819 Lincoln Road (U.S. Route 30) near Morrison.
The committee plans to continue its review of the county’s wind energy ordinance.
For more information on the meeting, call the Highway Department, 815-772-7651.
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