BUTLER CO. – A wind energy developer has its eye on land owners in east Butler County. This became the primary topic at this week’s Butler Board of Superior’s meeting.
An organization called, “NextEra Energy” is hoping to lease land and establish roughly 100 to 112 wind turbines throughout a portion of the county. NextEra would install the turbines in a portion of the county, lease land from existing land owners, and find a large commercial customer to purchase the energy. A representative from the organization said the location of the wind farm is based upon data that shows the specific area they are targeting, which is typically known to have high wind speed.
NextEra Development Director, Lisa Sullivan, attended the board meeting on Monday to explain the details regarding the project. She began by stating the organization is still in the early stages of the project, and plans on engaging with land owners to provide them with details regarding the turbines. She also notes that there is a non-negotiable price they offer to land owners, and they are looking to obtain 33,000 acres in order to have enough space to power the project.
Sullivan goes on to explain that there are also strict setback rules, which are not subject to change. NextEra hopes to avoid wetlands and each turbine needs to be approximately 1,400 feet away from occupied buildings and roadways. The structures, which have a life expectancy of 30 plus years, also must be 430 feet away from power lines.
Throughout the board meeting, many attendees began voicing concerns regarding liabilities. For example, many questions surfaced about who would be liable if one of the structures became damaged. The attendees wanted to know if it would be the landowner or NextEra. Sullivan addressed many of the legal concerns by stating that the company holds insurance on the structures, but each case could be different.
District 6 Butler County Supervisor, Greg Janak, explained how the wind farm could impact tax payers by stating, “Tax wise I think it will be a huge tax boost for the county as far as revenue generated through property tax, and good economic benefits can allow the land owners who decided to be part of the project and put windmills up.”
The meeting evolved into a conversation centered on access roads for these wind turbines. Sullivan explained that NextEra would work with county officials to establish access roads, and any changes that were made to local roads would not necessarily be permanent. This sparked some concern among meeting attendees, because they fear that falling debris from the turbines could be too close for comfort. A gentleman made a note that there have been instances where 6 foot debris from the turbine’s blades have cause causalities. However, NextEra says that their setbacks have been calculated to minimize that risk.
Janak also offered some advice for those who have been approached by NextEra. “Well I think before anyone does decide to participate in this they better have somebody look at their contract they have with NextEra Energy because I think it’s really important that their rights are protected. NextEra is looking out for their best interest. The land owner needs to look out for his best interest,” said Janak.
NextEra has established a footprint as to where these turbines will be located, however they will not release that information until they have gained the consent from land owners to move forward with the project. The turbines will stretch from east Butler County into Saunders County.
A meeting, referred to as an “open house” will be held on March 18th for land owners within the footprint. The meeting attendees will be selected by invitation only, and they will be able to meet with representatives from NextEra, who say they will provide the details to the land owners who are needed to move forward with the construction of the wind farm.
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