ROCKFORD – Nearly 50 residents attended a meeting held Tuesday by a group opposing wind turbines in northern Mercer County. Most at the meeting simply asked questions.
Neighbors United co-chair Pete Hayes told the crowd at least 17 land leases have been signed in the Rockford area to construct turbines. The turbines would be an extension of the proposed Long Prairie Wind Farm in Van Wert County.
Van Wert resident Ron Schumm, whose neighbors have turbines, said the turbine company tore up the roads and did not adequately repair them.
“They will destroy your roads,” he said. “That’s something the county and townships should be aware of.”
Residents asked about the flicker and noise produced by the 300-foot-tall structures. Schumm said the first time he saw the flicker – the shadow cast by the turbine’s moving arms – he didn’t know what it was. The nearest turbine to his house is a quarter mile away. Schumm said he only sees flicker in his house for about one week out of the year when the sun is rising.
“If the turbine was located somewhere else, that would be a different story,” he said.
He also said the noise from the moving arms produces a thumping sound, but he only hears it when his windows are open.
“My wife has allergies so we don’t have our windows open very often,” he said.
He also urged residents to hire an attorney to review any contract. Schumm said he considered allowing a turbine on his land but then changed his mind.
Businesses will always write a contract to suit themselves more than the resident, he cautioned.
“No offense to local attorneys, but they just don’t have the background to handle this,” he said. “We hired an attorney from Columbus, and they are expensive.”
Schumm said a pro is the money made on the venture but cautioned that people should be weary of what is happening to farmland.
Each turbine uses about 1-2 acres of land, for which the farmer receives a payment, and the farmer does not have to pay property tax on that land. That land cannot be farmed. Wind companies also pay neighbors without turbines a certain amount of money “for their inconvenience,” he said.
“What will we do in 2050 when turbines take over our farmland?” he said. “We can live without wind energy. We can’t live without food.”
Residents asked if the turbines would run often enough to make the project worth it. Schumm said they move with very little wind.
“It’s amazing how little wind on the ground it takes to get those things moving,” he said. “They’re going almost all the time.”
Schumm said the turbines do allow him to tell which direction the wind is moving and how fast.
Residents also asked if the turbines bring down property value and if the contract covers who is responsible for dismantling the structures after they break down or become obsolete. Schumm answered it’s too soon to know.
He believes property values would decrease and said the contracts he’s seen say the company is responsible for removing broken down turbines.
“My biggest concern is bankruptcy,” he said. “Who’s going to make a bankrupt company tear it down?”
Schumm said he tried but failed to negotiate an upfront payment from the company to cover costs if they go bankrupt.
“I think that’s something elected officials will have to do,” he said.
Hayes provided attendees with letters addressed to Mercer County Commissioners, Gov. John Kasich and local congressmen saying they are against the development of turbines.
The proposed Long Prairie Wind Farm involves the construction of a 200-megawatt wind farm – approximately 67 turbines – south of the city of Van Wert, business developer Roger Brown has said. He said as many as five turbines would be constructed in Mercer County.
Brown also has asked commissioners for a payment in lieu of taxes for the project. Commissioner Jerry Laffin last week said they would not accept the proposal unless they entered into negotiations with the company and first talked with those affected.
Neighbors United also has asked Rockford, Mendon and Willshire councils to consider banning turbines inside the corporation limits.
Neighbors United will hold an educational night at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the village hall. Council will meet for its next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the village hall.