Catching a glimpse of a breathtaking view is easy at the Dixon home. Floor to ceiling windows frame a panoramic look at the mountains. It’s even more dramatic from the front lawn, where you can look in all directions and the view goes for miles.
As wind energy companies – Horizon Wind Energy and Nordex – explore the possibilities of locating wind turbines on Wills Ridge, David Dixon and wife Ramona are now concerned about not only what will happen to such views as that one, but also about all of the consequences of wind turbines in their neighborhood.
Since Floyd County does not have a zoning ordinance, proposed wind farms would not be subject to approval by the Floyd County Board of Supervisors, and a public hearing would not be required.
The Dixons are two of those who signed a petition that was to go before the Board of Supervisors this week. The petition asks Supervisors to establish a county-wide ridgeline protection height ordinance and also to require a buffer zone of at least a ½ mile setback between any new industrial wind farm turbine operation and any residence and a one-mile setback between the wind farm turbine operation and a school or church. According to the petition, the buffer zone aims to counteract noise and light pollutions from the wind farms, and the restrictions are also aimed to protect scenic viewsheds and water resources.
Kathleen Ingoldsby, who lives in a passive solar home in the Wills Ridge area, also signed the petition asking for restrictions. Ingoldsby said she views herself as a steward of the land. “As a steward, I worry about disrupting springs that feed these branches.”
Ingoldsby continued, “When we moved here, we knew there would be development so we purposely came to this part of the property. We didn’t want to build on the road. We didn’t want to intrude on farms.” She believes the big issue in considering wind farms along the ridge is the water. “It’s in the water recharge area.”
Ingoldsby said she thinks wind farms along the ridge have larger implications for the infrastructure, and she believes there needs to be national setback requirements “because there are a lot of small communities going through” similar scenarios in regard to industrial wind farms. “There are lots of implications to it in regard to the growth of the county.”
The Dixons have been researching wind turbines since they heard about the two companies interested in their community. Once a wind turbine’s life span (20-30 years, according to Horizon Wind Energy literature) is reached, what happens? David Dixon wanted to know. Wind energy companies also could sell their farms to someone else. If the wind farms eventually become abandoned, “who will tear them down”? he asked. He said the wind energy company needs to be asked its goal and how marginal this project is. “My feeling is it will go for several years and then it’s going to be an eyesore.”
The couple has also watched an internet video showing a Danish wind turbine exploding during high winds in 2008.
“If one of the blades came off, how far will it travel?” David Dixon remarked.
Ramona Dixon said surges from the turbines could disrupt power, but the noise and the tower lights (required by the Federal Aviation Administration) at night would be most bothersome.
David Dixon said a property’s proximity to a wind farm affects its property value. That decrease in property values, he said, would affect everyone in the county in regard to lost county revenue.
Along with devaluation of property, Dixon said other concerns include health effects and sleep deprivation.
The noise pollution is a problem, he added, noting that “these windmills can’t be a part of a mission statement” that talks about the serenity of Floyd.
“The sound is what’s going to get everyone. You’re going to hear it all the time. It’s not going away.”
Ramona described it as a “whoosh” sound and said the noise can be heard up to a mile away.
“Everyone needs to be educated,” David Dixon said. “Everyone needs to voice an opinion.”
The couple has a view of two cell phone towers from their home, but they said they could not imagine how the wind turbines which are several hundred feet tall would look in comparison. “I try to picture in my mind how massive that tower is…to grasp what those towers would look like day after day,” Ramona Dixon commented.
The Dixons, whose land is not required for the project, said they “feel totally left out” of the consideration of the project, but yet they will be affected. The wind farm “needs to be away from the residential (area),” he commented. “If they had gone to areas (non-residential, offshore) where the wind has proved itself to be a powerful source….To start on the low end (residential) before you go to the high end is wrong.”
Ingoldsby said she has seen the big wind turbines in Denmark, but they are not located near people’s homes. They are offshore. Ingoldsby said those who signed the petition “are looking for some county guidelines…for what are industrial power plants.” She said the implications of putting power plants on Wills Ridge have implications for the other parts of the county.
“I feel it’s a real important issue for the county,” she added. “The county should be looking ahead. If the county does not decide what it wants in the long run, someone else will.”
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