MALTA – For them, against them, willing to threaten violence over their installation. Two wind testing towers, the first of which went up Monday afternoon in South Grove Township, are drawing a wide range of reactions.
The nearly 200-foot meteorological evaluation tower was installed in a soybean field on the east side of McQueen Road between Mowers Road and
Along the gravel road live several neighbors who are divided in their opinions on the potential for wind farm development in DeKalb County. Anti-wind turbine signs are displayed on some lawns and fences near the tower, and a company official said a resident’s threat to a worker delayed the project a day.
The second tower is set to go up later this week in a cornfield at the southeast corner of Glawe and Byers roads. San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy will use data collected by the towers to determine the economic viability of a wind farm in that part of DeKalb County.
Josh Bennett, MET program coordinator for EDF, said erecting a tower typically takes three days. The first tower took four days to raise, because a resident’s suggestion of gun violence to a worker was reported to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. Bennett said the project resumed after police investigated the comments and determined workers were safe.
Dale Montgomery, a lifelong resident of a family farm on McQueen Road, said he is supportive of wind farm development in DeKalb County, because it would benefit schools and help keep taxes down.
He also said hosting wind turbines could help his family buy more land with the extra income.
Montgomery said people who support wind farms generally have not spoken up about it, and others could be basing their opposition on misinformation. He added that he doesn’t think innovations such as railroads could be accomplished in today’s society.
“I’m glad we got done 100 years ago what we got done then,” he said. “No matter what you do, someone is going to be against it.”
Gale and Richard Richter, who have lived on McQueen Road about 12 years, said they don’t want a wind farm near their home because it would decrease property values.
Gale Richter said she worries about wind turbines’ physical effects, such as the blades reflecting light through their windows.
“That would drive our dog nuts,” she said. “We’d probably have to move.”
Richter said she would support wind turbines if the electricity were generated for use in DeKalb County.
“Maybe they’re the way of the future,” she said. “I just hate being the test subject.”
Ricky Hurst, who has lived in his grandma’s house on McQueen Road about 20 years, said he was indifferent about another wind farm in DeKalb County.
“A lot of people out here are against it,” he said. “But if they weren’t here, they’d just go up somewhere else.”
Hurst said nearby wind turbines might affect him, but the testing towers seem no different than another cell tower.
Bennett said an array of 14 sensors connects via cables to a data logger at the bottom of the tower, and information gathered on wind direction and speed, air temperature, barometric pressure and humidity are sent to the company daily over a wireless modem.
Sensors include anemometers that measure wind speed and weather vanes that test other elements of the wind, he said.
“The amount of energy you can extract from the wind is more complex than just wind speed,” Bennett said.
The towers are colored with seven alternating bands of orange and white and include sets of bright orange marker balls that run along the cables, anchoring them into the ground. Bennett said these features help make the towers visible to possible crop dusters and planes in the area.
The DeKalb County Board in June approved two special use permits for the company to install the wind testing towers, on the condition that they would be up no longer than 18 months.
PJ Saliterman, EDF’s development director, has said that the company would bring the matter to the board again to request an extension, as a three-year testing period was proposed. An extension would be subject to a public hearing as well as board approval.
Bennett said projects going off one year of data are to be avoided, and, ideally, testing towers stay up for a period of time after wind turbines are installed.
“From year to year, winds do not behave exactly the same,” Bennett said. “There are certainly trends, but it’s never exactly the same. So if you were only to extract data from one year, it becomes difficult to extrapolate that over 20.”
He also said two towers were needed because wind speeds can differ based on changes in elevation and other features in the land.
“One MET tower would not be enough, because it would only tell you about this microclimate right here,” Bennett said. “The behavior of the wind will change from here to 5 kilometers north.”
An 18-month moratorium on wind and solar development in DeKalb County has been in place since March. The temporary pause is set to expire in September 2018 or when the board passes an ordinance on sustainable energy, whichever comes first.
The moratorium was amended during the June board meeting to specify that rooftop solar panels producing noncommercial energy for use on-site are allowed.
DeKalb County’s existing wind farm with NextEra Energy Resources gained board approval in 2009 via a special use permit. The Florida company installed more than 100 wind turbines in Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships.
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