ROCA – Setback requirements, shadow flicker, ice thaw and health issues were all concerns raised during the first in a series of meetings concerning wind farm regulations.
Officials from Gage and Lancaster counties held their first of seven public meetings concerning wind farm regulations Thursday evening at the Roca Community Center. More than 20 members of the public joined the 20-person working group of invited officials to discuss regulations.
The meetings will largely concern setback regulations for both counties that will be umbrella policies for all future applicants, though the topic was promoted by a recent move to build a wind farm in southern Lancaster and northern Gage counties.
Volkswind USA announced plans last September for a wind farm that would be primarily in Lancaster County, though it would also occupy around 4,000 acres in Gage County.
Plans were recently halted while both counties reexamine their regulations.
The bulk of the 90-minute meeting was a presentation from Joseph Wood, Volkswind project manager. Wood discussed the process of building wind farms and issues that have arisen in the past.
Wood said the area between the two counties is a prime location due to its high wind levels and proximity to needed transition lines.
“The siting process, especially recently, it’s a very competitive process and I think early on it was kind of a no-brainer sometimes where these things should go, large tracts of wind-swept area,” Wood said. “But you need to have transmission lines. You have to have the transmission lines there to interconnect at a reasonable size to make these projects work.”
No specific changes to either county’s regulations were discussed, as the meeting served as a jumping off point for future discussions where more specific aspects will be addressed.
Volkswind was scheduled to discuss Lancaster County’s setback requirements in February, though the company withdrew its application to change the zoning code.
While past efforts have stalled, Stephen Henrichsen with the Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Department said the group hopes to gain a fresh perspective moving forward.
“From this point forward, we really want to start with a clean slate and move forward in terms of our discussion,” he said. “We really don’t want to focus on what may or may not have happened in the last six months in terms of the process.
“We’ve decided to take timeouts on the applications that we do have on hand. We have several months here to visit, learn information and see if we can come up with some regulations that meet various interests.”
Gage County Board member Matt Bauman said Gage County’s wind turbine regulations haven’t changed since they were set in 2010.
The County Board previously discussed its own setback requirements, which state the base of a wind turbine must be at least 1,250 feet from the nearest corner of a nonparticipating residence. The board has discussed doubling the setback requirement to 2,500 feet.
Volkswind previously stated the wind farm would bring more than 200 construction jobs and about $700,000 in total tax benefits annually to both counties.
The wind farm was estimated to cost $150 million to $190 million to construct.
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