GADSDEN, Alabama – Members of the Etowah County Commission today said they cannot keep a Texas-based company from building up to 40 wind turbines in an unincorporated part of the county.
“This is a privately-owned company operating on privately-owned property,” said Commissioner Kenney Tidmore. “We don’t have home rule. We don’t have a dog in this fight.”
Pioneer Green Energy is planning two projects in Etowah and Cherokee counties which they say would be the first wind farm in Alabama. The $150 million project would provide about 80 megawatts of power.
The project has had some opposition in Cherokee County, and some landowners in Etowah County have expressed concerns. Pioneer Green is planning an open house event in both counties to answer questions this weekend.
Tidmore and County CEO Patrick Simms last week traveled to Wyoming County, New York to see a 75-turbine windmill farm project, operational since 2007, Simms said. The trip was paid for by the county, Simms said.
Etowah County estimates they would receive about $300,000 to $400,000 in property tax revenue from the wind farms, and county schools would net between $400,000 to $600,000.
Simms said he and Tidmore questioned residents and county officials in New York about the pros and cons of the turbines. Both said they came with questions relayed by residents about concerns, such as the effect of the farms on property values and residual noise.
Simms said property values for landowners have increased about three to five percent since the project. “Of course, that might be unique to that county,” he said.
Both Simms and Tidmore said they did not feel the noise from the turbines was especially loud or, after a few minutes, noticeable.
Commissioners urged residents to attend this weekend’s open house event to pose their questions. The Gadsden open house will take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Etowah County Courthouse’s Community Meeting Room. The Cherokee open house will be from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce in Centre.
“If anyone has any concerns, they need to be there,” said Commission Chairman Joey Statum.
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