With a focus on making wind energy available to landowners who want turbines – while protecting the interests of those who don’t – Madison County is getting ready to put the finishing touches on its revised wind energy regulations.
On Thursday evening, the Madison County Joint Planning Commission continued discussions on the regulations, with hopes of hosting a public hearing on them next month. If there are no major changes based on the input from the hearing, the regulations could be forwarded to the board of commissioners for consideration in October.
The county’s moratorium on accepting wind farm applications to allow time to study existing zoning regulations is set to expire Oct. 3, but Heather McWhorter, the county’s zoning administrator, said the deadline could be extended if needed.
The joint planning commission kicked off the review in April and has been receiving input since then, including at Thursday evening’s meeting.
John Dittrich of rural Meadow Grove, who farms with his brother, Keith, said he has a strong interest in developing wind in Madison County.
Dittrich said he and his brother host a turbine in Antelope County in the Prairie Breeze project and a mile of transmission line that serves that project in Madison County.
In general, Dittrich said, he and his brother support wind energy as another of Nebraska’s renewable energy sources. But they don’t “blindly support” wind development because some rural people have reservations about it, he said.
That’s why they support a “thoughtful” permitting process, he said.
Dittrich also presented the planning commission with proposed regulations that are designed to be sensitive to rural interests while also enabling wind development.
Among the suggestions:
— Having setback requirements of 2,000 to 2,200 feet from turbines to residences. That’s an appropriate distance and still does allow for wind development, he said.
— Enabling the landowner to be able to waive that distance, such as a participating landowner who seeks to have a turbine on his property.
— Having some type of monetary reimbursement for non-participating landowners within property located within a half-mile of a turbine.
— Using new FAA-approved, radar-based night lighting that greatly decreases the lights necessary for towers. Low-flying aircraft trigger the new lights, but high-flying jets do not.
— Limiting a concentration of three turbines per square mile or having a similar radius restriction. Such a limit reduces the sound and shadow flicker that could occur, Dittrich said.
Another portion of Thursday’s meeting included a line-by-line review of the proposed regulations to see if commissioners had questions or comments. The regulations are listed on the county’s website for the public to continue to review.
At least two companies have been reported to be contacting landowners in the county and working with landowners to sign leases.
If enough leases are signed, the wind company would determine whether to go forward with a project. The company also needs to find a purchaser of the power.
The earliest Madison County likely is to have wind farm development would be at least two years – if at all, officials have said.
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