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Boone Commissioners dispute Purdue wind farm study conclusions

Two Boone County Commissioners disagree with a Purdue University study that a “very vocal and, thus, influential” minority group of rural residents killed plans for two wind farms here.

A Purdue News Service story by Brian Wallheimer discusses studies by Linda Prokopy, an associate professor of natural resources planning, and former graduate student Kate Mulvaney.

Prokopy and Mulvaney asked residents in Boone, Benton and Tippecanoe counties about their opinion of wind turbine farms. Their results were published in Energy Policy and in Environmental Management, two journals.

Wallheimer’s story said that, “in each county, more than 80 percent of survey respondents said they either supported wind farms in their counties or supported them with reservations. That was the case even in areas where local governments were against wind farm development or newspaper articles trended toward more negative aspects of the farms.”

Benton County is the location of Indiana’s first wind farm; there are now more than 500 of the electricity-generating turbine towers there, with “hundreds more approved,” according to the story.

Wallheimer wrote that Prokopy told him “a lack of governmental support” and a “well-organized opposition” were the primary reasons wind farms weren’t built in Boone.

“The opposition appeared to come from people who worked in Indianapolis but lived in rural parts of the county. They wanted to preserve their landscape,” Prokopy told Wallheimer. “They were in the minority, but they were very vocal and, thus, influential in terms of local government.”

In 2009, EnXco, a French firm, and Gestamp Wind North America both acquired lease options for wind farms in Boone County, although the county’s zoning regulations expressly prohibit such use. The firms each planned to install 130 turbines on leases covering 8,000 to 10,000 acres.

Bart and Laura Myers organized a group they called “The Citizens for the Preservation of Rural Boone County, Inc.,” and hired Zionsville attorney Michael Andreoli to represent them.

A web site created by the organization appears to have been last updated in October 2010.

According to The Indianapolis Star, EnXco announced in March 2012 it had canceled its Boone County project.

Calls by The Lebanon Reporter to EnXco seeking comment were not returned.

Commissioners Marc Applegate and Jeff Wolfe said this week that it was inaccurate to imply Boone County government was not supportive of the wind projects.

“It appears to me that they’ve editorialized a little bit there,” Wolfe said. “We never at the local government level received a request for wind farms,” he said. “To say we were unfriendly to it may not be fair because it never came before us.”

Had either EnXco or Gestamp come to county officials with definite plans, “all sides would have been heard by county government,” Wolfe said.

The only denial of which Wolfe was aware was a decision by the Boone County Area Plan Commission to deny EnXco renewal of a permit for a wind monitoring tower, which had been in use for several years.

Applegate personally opposes wind farms, believing that without heavy federal subsidies they are not economically feasible. He also has aesthetic and health concerns about the 220-feethigh towers, and the rotating blades that are 400 feet above the ground when the tip of one is vertical.

His personal opinion never became a factor, however, because no one formally began action to construct a wind farm, he said.

“Nobody every approached the commissioners, nobody every approached me,” with a zoning change, Applegate said.

Lease agreements being signed by farmers who were approached by EnXco and Gestamp “weren’t very good contracts,” Applegate said. “They were very one-sided.”

He would not, however, reject completely construction of wind farms in Boone County.

“If the residents want them, I would probably support them, even though I don’t think they’re the answer to our energy problems,” Applegate said.