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Boone County debates placement of wind turbines for potential wind farm

BELVIDERE – A fierce debate took place Tuesday night in Boone County all over wind turbines. A proposed wind farm that’s supposed to be built in Leroy & Manchester Townships may be derailed if the Boone County Zoning Appeals Board recommends a change to the county’s wind ordinance.

The wind ordinance concerns the placement of wind turbines in Boone County, and how far they can be installed from a home. Currently the rule allows for turbines to be within 1,000 feet from a home, but the Zoning Appeals board is considering changing that to 2,000 feet.

Mainstream Renewable Power’s proposed wind farm is set to create roughly 200 MW of power, which can provide energy to approximately 10,000 homes, but the benefit to the area comes in tax revenue for the county and an economic boost for the area. Mainstream’s Northern Boone County project manager Vince Green says the tax benefits the county stands to gain is somewhere in the millions, not to mention the tax benefits for Northern Boone, Manchester and Leroy Township schools.

But many people at Tuesday night’s meeting open to public comment said they don’t want to see the turbines in their backyard. Their arguments revolve around human and livestock health risks. People speaking out against the wind farm, in favor of this modification to the wind ordinance, said they had heard horror stories of people complaining of sleep deprivation and motion sickness in humans resulting from the noise and shadow flicker generated from the turbines.

Aside from the annoyance factor Green says there aren’t scientifically backed facts that suggest these issues pose a significant health risk to humans or livestock, and says his company is trying to mitigate as many of those problems. But Green says if this ordinance is changed, Mainstream will not be setting up shop in Boone County, because they won’t have the land available to complete the project.

Many farmers who plan on leasing their land to Mainstream say they’re excited for the wind turbines. It provides a substantial amount of money to those farmers, who many say are strapped for cash as is. One speaker at the meeting said there’s no industry in Leroy and Manchester townships other than farming, and for there to be more tax revenue for the two towns would greatly improve infrastructure for the small villages.

The Zoning Appeals Board’s decision is just a recommendation to the county board, which can make their own decision on whether to change the wind ordinance or leave it alone.