Wind, a four-letter word that’s had so many Henry County residents in an uproar for months, once again blew like a gale into Monday’s meeting of the New Castle-Henry County Board of Aviation Commissioners.
Airport manager John Marlatt said he’s received numerous calls from people wanting to know what airport officials think of the proposed wind ordinance recently approved by the Henry County Commissioners and passed on to the planning commission.
“I’ve explained to people that my understanding is everything has to basically start over from zero right now,” Marlatt said.
“There are no active wind projects at the moment in Henry County,” New Castle Mayor Greg York concurred. “For there to be an active wind project, the companies involved would have to start all over again.”
“The truth of the matter is the north windmill people and the south windmill people – both permits have lapsed,” York said. “Their time is up. At one time, they started at zero. If they try to get that permit again, they’re so far below zero now, I can’t even imagine them getting re-permitted.”
In April, New Castle-Henry County’s Board of Aviation Commissioners learned there was another proposal by Flatrock Wind LLC to erect 41 wind turbines in southern Henry County. Board members reacted swiftly to the news, unanimously passing a motion to send the Federal Aviation Administration a letter opposing the project.
The biggest issue, according to Marlatt, is the proposed height of the turbines – 660 feet.
“That’s twice as high as Shenandoah’s,” board member Dick Bouslog said.
Marlatt explained the taller the turbine, the more wind can be harnessed. But Marlatt emphasized taller turbines create more interference for crucial airport operations.
“When it starts getting to those numbers, that begins to affect the air space you have,” board member Tom Green agreed.
Aviation Board President Maurie Goodwin said the new ordinance now under consideration includes a provision that the airport must be notified of any new wind farm construction with the board given 60 days to respond.
“We requested that as a board a year or so ago,” Goodwin said. “The wind turbine plans encroached more and more on the airport all the time. All we’ve got to do is speak up and they’re not going to let that happen.”
Marlatt said he invited each person who called inquiring about the airport’s stance on the new wind ordinance to attend a board meeting. There were no members of the public at Monday’s meeting.
Wind issues in Henry County date back to 2010. Since then, Nordex, Apex and Nextera wind companies have made headlines here.
But in those eight years, only one industrial-size wind turbine has been constructed – and that one at Shenandoah High School has been operational since 2014. Officials there have said the turbine is producing about 85 percent of power needed for the school corporation’s elementary, middle and high school facilities.
Bouslog summed up the wind turbine saga.
“Apex is idle right now,” he said. “When Rush County pulled out, that kind of killed that project. Nextera, which has like eight, nine turbines in the southeast, I don’t know what they’re doing. It involves Fayette County also. There was talk they might want to expand into Apex’s 28 turbines. That’s not going to happen. Calpine, of course, they jumped in head-first. They got the whole thing going. It was as quiet as can be down south until Calpine came in.”
Board members agreed the wind companies seeking to build turbines in Henry County had been somewhat disingenuous.
“APEX was trying to figure out a way to fit 79 of them in southern Henry County,” Marlatt said. “That’s what the original project was for Rush and Henry County. They kept getting farther and farther north. I wasn’t pleased with that. They didn’t ask permission from anyone.”
“They just kept sneaking,” Green added.
“It kind of felt like sneaking to me, too,” York agreed.
But York also said the anti-wind people in the county should calm down, given the ground zero status any active project would face.
“They just need to leave it alone until somebody applies for a permit,” York said.
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