The Henry County Planning Commission has voted unanimously to grant Whitewater Wind’s request for up to eight wind turbines in Dudley Township. About 50 people attended the commission’s meeting Tuesday, with some speaking against the proposal.
The next step for Whitewater Wind is to participate in similar meetings in Fayette and Rush counties, which are also included in the wind farm plans. The company is considering placing 77 wind turbines, including 43 in Fayette, 25 in Rush, and as many as eight in Henry County.
New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy introduced Project Manager Jeremy Ferrell Tuesday, saying the proposed project would grow the local tax base. He said the wind farm would be a $26 million investment in Henry County. Even with already-approved tax abatement the project will generate $500,000 in new taxes the first 10 years the turbines are operational.
Ferrell said his company selected this area for the turbines because of consistent wind, its closeness to electric transmission lines, a large number of landowners willing to work with the company and strong community support. Each turbine will require about one acre of land. The wind farm would generate around 150 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 40,000 homes – and the project would create around 200 temporary construction jobs and five to 10 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $80,000.
Rich Lampeter, one of several consultants Ferrell brought with him, said that at full production a turbine, which measures almost 500 feet from the ground to the tip of one of its upraised blades, generates 61 decibels of sound, which he likened to someone speaking in a conversational voice from three feet away.
“The sound level of one of these wind turbines is well below the maximum level allowed in your ordinance,” Lampeter said.
Sharon Mullen of Henry County said the proposed 1,500-foot setback is inadequate. A setback is the required distance between the turbine and its neighbors. She also voiced concern about noise, flicker from the shadows of the rotating blades (called shadow flicker) and the possibility of a turbine blades breaking and causing damage or injury.
Stu Linville of Rush County wondered if the turbines were subsidized by the federal government, asked about the company’s response time when there was a problem, questioned the fate of the turbines if the company goes out of business, and said the wind farm would stunt growth in Henry County.
Cindy Cunningham of Henry County wondered why a company based in Florida would invest $26 million in Henry County, questioned how much each property owner with a turbine would be paid, and said setback should be based on property lines, not residential foundations.
Ferrell said turbines are subsidized, that response time to a problem could be as little as 30 minutes, that monies were set aside and a bond put in place to ensure the turbines could be decommissioned if needed, the proposed setbacks exceed the local requirement, and that the payment to individuals was something he could not discuss. He did say the company would pay out more than $35 million over the 30 years of the project’s anticipated life.
“I’m pleased with the outcome,” Murphy said following the vote. “Hopefully, our neighbors (Fayette and Rush counties) can move in the same direction and this project can be built.”
Not everyone agreed. Mullen said, “I’m upset and disappointed. I think the lives that we’ve built and the money we’ve invested in our homes has been taken. Our quality of life won’t be the same. It just seems like money is everything.”
Ferrell said that if the project does not gain approval in Fayette and Rush counties, it doesn’t mean it is dead.
“I think we’d have to reassess, but these things are constantly changing and that would just be another factor, another variable, that we would have to consider,” he said. The company hopes the turbines will be up and running by 2017.
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