MUNCIE – Delaware County wind farm opponents are asking for setbacks that would almost certainly prevent construction of a wind farm.
Opponents are proposing a minimum setback of two miles (or 10,560 feet) between wind turbines and dwellings.
Even the 1,320 foot setback now being proposed by Marta Moody, director of the city-county plan commission, could be difficult for a wind farm developer to comply.
“If we buffered every residence two miles, there would be no ground left for a wind farm,” said Lorey Stinton, a city-county planner. “That would regulate them out of our county.”
One thousand feet from a dwelling makes most projects feasible in Indiana, according to Michael O’Donnell, a Purdue extension educator in Delaware County.
“If setbacks are too far, making turbine siting options very limited, particularly in rural areas with higher population density (like Delaware County), it simply becomes unworkable for the developer,” O’Donnell told plan commission chairman Tom Green in an email.
A setback requirement of 1,500 feet “would severely limit the project,” Green responded.
“As with any type of development activity, siting turbines is a zoning issue and there must be a reasonableness applied to creating setbacks that both protect public health and welfare and allow for economic development,” John Anderson, director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), told The Star Press. “National standards have been examined, but for a variety of reasons, including population density and landscape differences from community to community, siting a wind turbine cannot be solved by a one-size-fits all approach. There are a number of factors that go into properly siting a turbine that are best handled by individual townships, counties and states.”
That being said, a two-mile setback “far exceeds reasonable setbacks established around the country” and would likely deter development,” he said.
A general range found in many state and county ordinances is between 500 feet and 1,500 feet between the turbine base and the nearest habitable structure, Anderson added.
The plan commission’s proposed 1,320 feet-setback is based in part on the report of an independent expert panel sponsored by the Massachusetts’ departments of environmental protection and public health, according to Moody.
The panel investigated the health impacts of wind turbine noise, vibration, shadow flicker and ice falling or thrown from turbine blades. The panel’s report included Swedish, Dutch and New Zealand epidemiological studies.
Wind farm opponent Grace April, a dairy farmer, has told the plan commission the World Health Organization recommends a setback of 1,500 meters, or 4,921 feet.
AWEA’s position on that is:
• If the WHO guidelines were applied equally to all forms of development, few if any roads, highways, airports or shopping centers would ever be built. To single out wind energy for regulation in this fashion is discriminatory.
• Modern wind turbines make very little sound.
• Wind turbine sounds are not fundamentally different from other sounds.
• By generating electricity without the air and water pollution associated with coal-burning power plants, wind energy has an overwhelmingly positive effect on human health.
• WHO guidelines address community noise in general, not wind turbine noise specifically.
The plan commission’s draft ordinance regulating wind farms reports, “Large wind energy conversion systems are an alternative energy source that produces electrical energy in an environmentally beneficial manner without the production of greenhouse gases and can offer economic development benefits to local government and residents such as increases to the tax base, revenue generation for landowners and the creation of temporary and permanent employment.”
The plan commission tabled a vote on a draft ordinance at its May meeting. A decision has not yet been made whether the commission will vote on the measure at its June meeting or at its July meeting. The commission is advisory only. The county commissioners have final jurisdiction over the ordinance.
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