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Shadow flicker of wind farm proves to be intrusive

Bill Preller remembers the disco era of the 1970s. But it appears he’d rather don a lime-green leisure suit than deal with the occasional nightclub-like effect wind turbines have had on his residence.

“It’s a strobe light. It’s on and off in the middle of the afternoon,” Preller said about the shadows cast by rotating turbine blades from the White Oak Wind Energy Center in McLean County.

Preller’s house is located between Normal and Hudson, on the eastern periphery of the 100-turbine development that borders Woodford County.

None of the turbines is on Preller’s property. The closest are about 1,500 feet from the foundation of his house, a distance determined by McLean County zoning officials.

Most of the time, those turbines don’t appear to cause Preller many problems. But starting in early November, the stretch between 3 and 4 p.m. each day for about four months sometimes isn’t much of a happy hour. That’s because of the shadow flicker of the turbines.

“‘Flicker’ is a euphemism,” said Preller, who is self-employed. “I can’t see my computer screen. I can’t read. I bought heavy, thick blinds, but it doesn’t matter. It comes right through.

“We are shut out from doing our work for 45 minutes in the middle of the afternoon.”

Leisure activities also can be affected. In testimony Preller gave last month to the Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals, he said shadow flicker and noise from the rotating turbines forced a premature end to his family’s Christmas celebration last year.

“When two boxers get in the ring and beat each other up, that’s their business,” Preller said. “When a boxer comes and beats me up, that’s assault. That’s not fair.”

McLean County has no wind farm ordinance; regulations are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Revisions to the Woodford County ordinance would set back a typical turbine at least 1,600 feet from residences whose owners aren’t part of a wind farm. In Preller’s case, the 1,500-foot distance might not be enough at times.

“If we can hear the turbines in our bedroom and if they wake us up at night, you can argue that’s not an adequate setback from a pure quality-of-living standpoint,” he said.

Preller said each wind-farm circumstance is different, and perhaps other families located near developments find turbines less intrusive. He also thinks Woodford County officials have done a good job addressing and discussing property rights of everybody affected directly by wind farms.

“We don’t want to be overly dramatic,” Preller said. “But we do want to be accurate about the intrusiveness of this in our lives.

“Is it disruptive? On some days, yes, it is.”