During the Clay County Board of Supervisors regular session on Tuesday, Supervisors met with Apex Clean Energy, who gave multiple presentations regarding perceived concerns. Supervisors also met with Janna Swanson, Clay County resident and Coalition for Rural Property Rights board member.
Brenna Gunderson, senior development manager at Apex Clean Energy, explained why Apex had brought experts to give presentations during the session.
“I’ve been developing a wind project, my team and I, since 2015. It’s a 300-megawatt project, kind of in the northwest part of Clay County and Dickinson County. We have over 100, about 115 landowners that are participating. … In the past couple of months we’ve heard that there are some further concerns about the project, so what we wanted to do today was to invite some speakers, really subject matter experts that can speak to some of the concerns that we are hearing about,” Gunderson said.
Apex’s first presentation was regarding various health concerns and setback requirements regarding the wind farm.
“Apex has hired me to look at their citing of this project amongst others and whether or not the setback requirements in your ordinance constitutes a properly cited wind project,” Christopher Ollson, Ph.D, senior environmental health scientist at Ollson Environmental Health Management, said. “You’ve got a 20-year history of having wind projects in the state, you’ve got almost 4,000 wind turbines up and spinning. … We look at the experience Iowa’s had as a whole, we don’t see issues, we don’t see widespread complaints, we don’t see issues on the farming, they’re all located the vast majority on agricultural land. … Look at your own state first, the other counties … they’ve got very similar guidance and ordinances than Clay County as well. … In Canada in 2014, … the largest study that’s ever been undertaken around the world on wind turbines and living in close proximity, they discussed with over 1,200 people (with) homes (that) were as close as 820 feet. … Overall, just to summarize from their words ‘There’s no evidence that living close to a wind turbine or further away,’ – so as close as the 820 feet – that they didn’t find any evidence that people’s health living close by or further away was affected any differently, and this includes sleep.”
Ollson also went on to explain Apex’s planned decibel and setback criteria.
“You don’t have a (decibel) number in your ordinance, you have a 1,200-foot setback, and essentially what that equates to is a sound level of 50 decibels or less, and what Apex is proposing when they file their CEP application with the county is that they would stay the 50 decibels or less for people that were participating and 45 decibels or less for those who aren’t participating, affording them a little less sound at their homes. The setback distances would be more than 1,300 feet for the non-participating residents, … it’s all very consistent with both the science and other setback ordinances that we have in the area,” Ollson said.
Dave Phillips, Apex director of wildlife and environmental permitting, also gave a presentation, focusing around a concern that bald eagle populations could be negatively effected because of wind turbine projects.
“There (are) very few bald eagle collision mortalities. In the course of the wind industry in the U.S. there’s only been 21 documented collision mortalities of bald eagles. … We have over 50,000 operating turbines in the U.S. so that’s really an astoundingly low number … and I’d rank eagles as a low risk species, simply because of their behavior. They tend to fly during the day, they’re not necessarily distracted when they’re flying around turbines, and the turbines are generally cited away from their preferred habitat, which in most parts involves open water. … The probability of eagles being killed is extremely low,” Phillips said.
During the meeting a petition was presented to the Clay County Board of Supervisors supporting Apex’s Upland Prairie Wind Project, and was explained as having almost 100 signatures from the citizens in the area. The petition supporting the project should not be confused with an earlier petition against the project, which was presented at an April session.
Swanson met with the Supervisors to share information regarding wind turbine and wind energy concerns, including infrasound, efficient aerial application concerns, and setback distances.
“Janna, let me ask you a question, what are you specifically opposed to?” Clay County Board of Supervisors Chairman Burlin Matthews asked.
“We are opposed to industrial wind turbines, not wind energy, but industrial wind turbines within our communities that possibly can impact the peace of our homes and the way that we run our businesses,” Swanson said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the wind industry.”
“What I’m trying to show you guys is that this is not a decision to make lightly, … this is something that you have to consider their business plan against the wellness of your community. The people that don’t want this need to be protected from it. They can’t just come in and say, ‘The setbacks don’t work for us,’ if they don’t work for your community they don’t work … I know that y’all want money, but raise taxes. You don’t have to tax just one part of the population by making them have these things,” Swanson said.
“We banned a casino, we banned a packing plant, and you know that. So what’s happened economically, people are struggling. Especially agriculturally. … We’re looking out for a county. One of them mandates we have in this inch-thick book we’ve received from the state is what we are required to do. We’re required to look out for the county as a whole. We also have to be aware of the fact that people like you will have concerns and we like to listen to them, but one concern won’t offset a hundred people that are supportive of something. … To be real honest we’re looking at two distinctly different sides of this, we’re neighbors now, and this (wind) farm, if this gets built we’ll still be neighbors. You have the right to disagree with this, you just do. Everybody in the room has that right. It doesn’t mean because we disagree that we don’t like you, it just means we think differently and we’re doing some things, what we think will impact the county to a huge degree,” Matthews said.
No action was scheduled or taken regarding wind turbine or energy during the session. Future discussion and potential action will occur at a future Clay County Board of Supervisors meeting.
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