MORRISON – Some wind farm opponents don’t want nearby turbines because they don’t like their looks, a university professor told an audience Thursday.
But they don’t think that argument is good enough, so they find other reasons to justify their opposition, said David Loomis, director of Illinois State University’s Center for Renewable Energy.
He and a colleague gave a 2-hour-plus presentation on the wind energy industry that was billed as “nonbiased,” but some questioned whether they were truly objective.
The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension invited them to speak at Odell Public Library. One of the goals was to provide information for members of the Whiteside and Lee county boards – both of which have big decisions coming up on wind energy issues.
Many wind farm opponents bring up noise from turbines as a reason to oppose them. But Loomis, an economics professor, said studies have shown that wind turbines are quieter than most sounds, including those from offices.
Some contend wind turbines hurt neighboring property values, but Loomis presented his center’s studies, which showed that turbines ultimately had no effect on property values.
One study demonstrated that property values drop after a wind farm is announced and before turbines go up. After construction, Loomis said, the values increase by a similar amount.
That study included properties within a 5-mile radius of a wind farm. But some in the audience said they would have preferred a study that included only those homes that were closer, which they said would show the true effect.
Loomis said people’s opposition to wind farms often boils down to aesthetics.
“Some people will love the looks of wind turbines. Others hate their looks,” he said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
As for turbines killing birds, wires and buildings are much bigger causes, he said.
The center’s presentation, “Wind Farms in Your Community: A Nonbiased
Perspective,” drew about 45 people, including 11 Whiteside and three Lee County board members and their zoning officials.
The Center for Renewable Energy was founded a few years ago with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. It also received $50,000 donations from three wind energy companies and State Farm Insurance.
Asked about the funding, Loomis said the wind energy donations pay for student internships, not the center’s studies.
Questioning Loomis’ objectivity, Sterling resident Amanda Norris said during the question-and-answer session that it appeared to be in the center’s best interest to promote wind energy so that students could get jobs in that field.
Loomis said her assessment was fair.
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