So what is all the buzz about these big wind turbines? If you have not heard about this issue, it’s time to listen.
I am deeply concerned that a huge project that will change the entire landscape and culture of our communities could be happening with very little awareness or input from residents. Miami and Cass County Commissioners have already voted to approve setbacks – the distance a 600-foot industrial wind turbine could be placed from a home or residence.
On Monday, Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, the Fulton County Commissioners will host a public hearing at which they can approve or deny these setbacks, proposed to them by the Fulton County Planning Board. These commissioners have been tirelessly researching and listening to advice and comments from wind developers, concerned citizens and other counties with similar projects. If Fulton County votes to approve the same setbacks established in Miami and Cass Counties, the project is pretty much a done deal.
While I have only lived in this area for 15 years, my husband’s family has been here for over a century. This rural farming community is rich in family and farming traditions that have created a peaceful, community minded and strongly intertwined culture.
What have been proposed by the Fulton County planning board are some of the shortest setbacks in all of Indiana, for some of the tallest turbines in the world. These giant, spinning skyscrapers could be placed only 1,200 feet from my home and 900 feet from my property line. We would not be able to give land to our children, as building on our land closer to the turbines would be unsafe. There are countless other families in this same situation.
Our commissioners have to consider the rights of every citizen in the county, not just those of individuals who have signed contracts with RES, the wind developer that is proposing to build 300 turbines across Miami, Cass and Fulton Counties. If others feel comfortable enough to live dangerously close to a turbine, that is their right. But those citizens, the wind developers and our elected officials cannot ethically force the rest of us to do so.
Consider these facts: RES often uses a model of turbine manufactured by VESTAS, a Dutch company. VESTAS’ safety manual states that the turbine workers should not stand within 1,640 feet of the turbine should something go wrong. There are over 2,000 incidents on record of accidents, many involving injuries or even fatalities. Yet our planning board has proposed to allow RES to place our homes and families within only 1,200 feet of a turbine? What if one of these turbines were to catch fire? Our fire departments are not equipped to fight fires hundreds of feet in the air.
Denmark has been using industrial wind turbines as a source of clean energy since the ’70s. Obviously, this has allowed them many more years to track health and safety issues involving turbines. After years of practice, their government has established setbacks of 2,640 feet for the entire nation. Germany, another experienced wind-power nation, has setbacks of 3,280 feet and is currently moving away from wind energy because their citizens cannot afford to pay their electric bills. (Wind energy is apparently not so affordable).
If our elected officials are looking at all of the research, and not just the research presented to them by wind developers, it will be clear to them that these proposed setbacks are a danger to our community. Sure, the citizens of Rochester will not be affected, other than the average $25 property tax cut they may see. But I think it’s safe to say that the good people of Rochester are not willing to accept $25 in exchange for putting their rural neighbors’ lives and homes at risk.
The only argument posed in favor of this project is the financial aspect. While this project may offer a sizable paycheck to the county, there are other ways to bring money that will not change the entire landscape and culture of our community.
We are placing our trust and hope in our elected officials. They swore an oath to protect the safety, health and welfare of all citizens of Fulton County. I pray that they hear our message loud and clear, or we will send another message in the next election.
Lisa Zimpleman is a resident of Fulton County.