DEER GROVE – Deb Murphy moved to southeastern Whiteside County a decade ago. A farm is across the road from her house, a prairie borders her land.
For her, it was ideal. She wanted peace and quiet.
“There are those like me who go where there will be no building,” she said. “It’s peaceful. When I say you can hear the corn grow, I mean it literally. You can hear the noise from the corn.”
But Murphy, 59, fears things soon will change. An Ireland-based wind energy company, Mainstream Renewable Power, is proposing three turbines and an electrical substation on two farms southeast of her land.
The substation would be 800 feet away from her house. The turbines would range from 1,826 to 3,800 feet.
The wind farm is planned for Whiteside, Bureau and Lee counties. This would be the first for Whiteside.
Murphy’s property has been in the family for more than a century. Her grandparents lived there.
After they died, Murphy, who lived in Rock Falls her whole life, decided to move into the old white house 13 miles to the south.
On a recent day, she stood on the deck in front of her house. The wind blew toward her.
That was the prevailing direction of the wind, she said. And she believed that would make the noise of the turbines even worse for her.
She likes to entertain people on the deck in the summer, but she said they may not want to spend their time near a substation and 500-foot turbines.
“I know the noise that one turbine can make, let alone three. Substations are loud,” said Murphy, who works for an area hospice.
She also fears her property value will drop if the county approves the turbines and substation.
Her arguments reflect those of other wind farm opponents. They say turbines’ noise and vibrations affect some people’s health.
Ellen Carey, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based American Wind Energy Association, said studies of turbines’ health impacts show that “practically none” exist.
“While a small percentage of the population may be annoyed by these sounds, they are the exception and not the rule,” she said in an email.
“The noise is less than a plane and a washing machine,” she said in an interview. “Eighty-nine percent of Americans – whether they are Democrats, Republicans or independents – want more wind energy.
John Martin, a project manager with Mainstream, said Murphy would be treated like other landowners.
“We have appropriate setbacks associated with homes. We have given appropriate consideration for noise and shadow flicker, as well,” Martin said.
The project would comply with Illinois Pollution Control Board standards, he said.
However, wind farm opponents say those standards are outdated and don’t address turbines’ low frequency noise. Besides, they say, the board is woefully underfunded to enforce rules.
Over the past couple of months, the Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission has had five hearings on Mainstream’s proposal for nine turbines. Three of them focused on the objections by Greg Wahl, who owns 43 acres next to Murphy’s property – 22 of which he calls undisturbed prairie.
Wahl, along with his attorney and an expert witness, have argued the turbines would hurt threatened species on the property. The expert testified the turbines should be a half-mile away.
The county’s setback between homes and turbines is 1,400 feet, and Mainstream’s proposal follows that.
“I don’t think [Wahl’s] land should be given any special consideration. That would be a bad precedent to set,” Martin said.
Murphy spoke during the first hearing and has attended the others. She argued against the turbines, saying she wanted to preserve her home for the future.
“I want my grandchildren to appreciate it, too,” she told the commission.
Already, Murphy can see turbines from her house. Turbines are 8 miles away in Lee and Bureau counties, part of the Big Sky wind farm that started 2 years ago.
From a distance, they can seem amazing, she concedes.
“When you drive by, you say, ‘Holy crap, they are big and they are awesome.’”
She thinks differently now.
The Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Rock Falls Community Building, 601 W. 10th St. Meetings last 2 1/2 hours.
The commission will continue its hearing on Mainstream Renewable Power’s proposed wind farm.
Call Whiteside County’s zoning office at 815-772-5175 for more information.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding