We all have seen the huge components of modern wind turbines being transported up and down U.S. Highway 75 through Jackson County.
The best time for Jackson County officials and residents to be learning all they need to know about wind energy projects was yesterday.
The second best time is now – immediately.
A wind farm project proposed for northwest Brown County called the Pony Express Wind Farm was a topic of discussion for the Brown County Commission on Monday, Jan. 14.
About 25 Brown County residents attended the meeting with health and welfare and safety concerns.
Brown County Commissioners said they didn’t expect to meet with the wind farm officials about zoning issues and conditional use permits until summer. However, they said they planned to hire an engineering firm soon for input on how to regulate any wind farm compnies.
Still, those at the meeting suggested one-mile “setbacks’’ – buffer zones between wind turbines and homesteads and a quarter mile “setback’’ from any land property lines.
They also stated concerns about things like noise levels, infrasound, flicker effects and the responsibility for upkeep and maintenance on county roads and bridges.
Invenergy is the name of the wind farm company interested in northwest Brown County, it was reported.
On Dec. 12, 2018, a community meeting to discuss this wind farm project – and another one proposed in Nemaha County by the NextEra Energy Resources company – was held at Fairview and attended by about 120 people.
Topics discussed included setbacks, health concerns, quality of life concerns, neighbor considerations and additional income for those land owners who sign leases with the wind farm companies.
The first wind farm in this area was established in 2010 just across the Nebraska state line north of Bern, it was reported.
In 2012, the Nemaha County Commission approved a resolution establishing criteria and conditions to regulate commercial wind energy projects. The resolution established wind turbine location requirements and penalties if the resolution was not followed.
In 2016, the Nemaha County Commission rescinded the resolution and established a new one with a wind energy district and a conditional use permits system to govern it.
The Soldier Creek Wind Farm proposed for Nemaha County would include about 120 turbines located in all 20 townships in the county. The initial site for the wind farms is in the Wetmore area of southern Nemaha County. About 176 land owners reportedly have signed some agreements already.
The project reportedly expects to pay more than $50 million to land owners for lease agreements in annual easement payments based on number of acres leased, bonuses, separate installation payments and operating fees based on installed megawatts.
The Pony Express Wind Farm proposed for northern Brown County would include between 200 and 400 turbines in all 20 of that county’s 20 townships.
Wind experts reportedly say that Brown and Nemaha counties are great sources of wind and therefore it is not a stretch to think that adjoining county Jackson to the south would have a great source of wind, too.
High voltage transmission lines are also located in this area with available capacity, making the area attractive for a wind energy project, it has been reported.
Wind farms are already operating in Marshall County, and Pottawatomie County (directly west of Jackson) had one operating but no longer does, it has been reported.
Proponents of wind farms point to lucrative land lease payments to land owners and increased tax revenue to local units of government such as counties and schools.
It reportedly takes hundreds of workers to build the wind farms and afterwards 20 to 30 full-time operations and maintenance jobs to keep them going.
A Nemaha County Commission meeting on Dec. 17, 2018, drew about 15 residents there to talk about wind farms.
Jackson County officials need to get up to speed on wind farms, if they have not already. The wind farm activity in Brown and Nemaha counties is well under way. Let’s watch closely and learn from our neighbors.
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