November 8, 2015
Letters, Nebraska

Local View: Sensible regulations for industrial wind turbines

By Torri and Trevor Lienmann | Lincoln Journal Star |

Sen. Ken Haar includes much misleading information in “The death of opportunity by over-regulation” (Local View, LJS, Nov.4).

For example, the $700,000 benefit the developer claimed would result from the Hallam Wind Project would not all remain in Lancaster County. It would be split between Lancaster, Gage and Saline counties. Taxes from industrial wind turbines cannot be earmarked for specific projects, such as repairing bridges or roads. County Commissioner Amundson was correct in stating it is just a drop in a very large bucket for Lancaster County.

As Lancaster County grows by approximately 6,000 people per year, many are buying and building homes in rural parts of the county. Such development near industrial wind turbines will stop entirely. The value of existing properties will decrease significantly. How does the loss of current and future property taxes on thousands of properties compare with the taxes on a few wind turbines for 20 years?

How many “good-paying jobs” would result from an industrial wind development? According to the wind developer, NextEra, the Steele Flats wind facility has five full-time employees. In other states with significant wind development, it has eliminated more jobs than it created. The opening of a new local restaurant in Hickman will create as many as 30 new jobs. Monolith, which is replacing one of the coal boilers at the Sheldon Power Plant, will bring in over 100 new jobs. The village of Hallam could benefit greatly from an increase of over 100 new residents. But, how many of those would want to build in Hallam if it were surrounded by turbines?

As to the real economic impact on electric rate payers, you need to look at the top 10 wind producing states. The wind power industry claims switching from conventional power to wind power will save consumers money and spur the economy. However, data from the top 10 wind power states show just the opposite. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) from 2008 to 2013, electricity prices rose an average of 20.7 percent in the top 10 wind power states, which is seven times higher than the national electricity price increase of merely 2.8 percent.

Mr. Haar uses two elderly Steele Flats leaseholders, who profit from wind turbines, as his example of residents who don’t hear the noise from the turbines. There are other residents within the footprint of Steele Flats who do suffer with the noise, shadow flicker and blinking red lights. Turbine noise is unlike your refrigerator or the flag flying in your front yard. It has a complex sound signature. Turbines produce audible and inaudible (infrasound) noise that can be very disturbing to those forced to live near them. The constant swish-thump of the blades passing the tower creates vibrations and sound pressure that can be felt at great distances, especially at night. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have proven this vibration and pressure causes sleep disturbances, leading to numerous, serious health consequences. The Lancaster County Health Department used the most current scientific studies to formulate its recommendations for safe sound limits. Their research was extensive and exhaustive and was carefully reviewed in detail by our county commissioners.

Equally important, this is a land use and property rights issue. Is an industrial wind facility compatible with the existing and future use of land in rural Lancaster County? The noise, shadow flicker and visual impact of such projects will affect the use, enjoyment and future development of surrounding properties, not to the mention potential difficulties this will undoubtedly present to persons with sensory disabilities. The County Board has chosen to accept the recommendations of the Health and Planning departments to assure reasonable compatibility with existing developments. There are many locations for industrial wind facilities which do not have the likelihood of adverse impacts on surrounding landowners. That is where they should be. Mr. Haar should be encouraging development in less densely populated counties.

We applaud the county commissioners who voted to create safe and sensible regulations for industrial wind turbines. We are proud to be represented by commissioners who care about the health, safety and property rights of all Lancaster County residents, not just a handful of wind turbine leaseholders.

Torri and Trevor Lienemann are the 2016 host family for the Cattlemen’s Ball of Nebraska, which is Nebraska’s largest cancer research fundraiser. The Lienetics Ranch, near Princeton and Hallam, was chosen based on the visually pleasing nature of their ranch’s landscape and their commitment to rural futures, the livestock industry, and cancer research.

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