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Over 550 sign wind setback petition

The local anti-wind group “Save Jasper County” announced on Saturday that its petition against the county’s new wind turbine setbacks had been filed at the Jasper County Recorder’s Office and bears 567 signatures. Though an early copy of the petition was given to the county government earlier, the county’s new setbacks were signed into law by the Jasper County Commissioners on Monday, Feb. 4.

“We are a group of concerned citizens and landowners in Pulaski and Jasper counties (who are) opposed to a wind project,” the group stated online.

According to member Heather VanDemark, the online version of the petition is “still very much open for people to sign,” through the group’s Facebook page and at gopetition.com. That said, the group is no longer “actively pushing it.” There have been some late signatures since the original deadline.

Writing on behalf of the group, member Heather VanDemark recently said that its goal with the petition is “to show our county commissioners that residents from all townships within the county do not agree with the current setbacks they have proposed.”

All three of the Jasper County Commissioners have stated that there will be further alterations made in order to make sure area property rights are protected. At the time of the meeting, Commissioner Kendell Culp said he was waiting to hear back from the U.S. Department of Defense about aerial restrictions on turbines for a local military base.

The Vestas safety manual

The group stated its reason for disagreeing with the setbacks is that they are “inadequate” on the basis of safety setbacks from a manual used by the wind turbine company Vestas, which is the basis for the setback suggestion in the petition. According to VanDemark, the company followed this manual when building smaller turbines than the ones currently being proposed for Jasper County.

“This means that the 575-foot turbines (the commissioners) will allow to be developed here should have much larger setbacks than what is in the proposed ordinance,” she wrote. “…The petition is asking for greater setbacks from property lines to ensure our families can safely enjoy the land we pay taxes on and own.”

EDP Renewables representative Matt Thornton was present at the same commissioners meeting where the new legislation was eventually passed. He was asked to respond to concerns about the lack of a particular safety manual being used as a basis for the turbine restrictions. His company has expressed interest in having a wind farm in the county.

“The Vestas safety manual, I think, made its way through the internet, and comes up fairly often,” Thornton said. “That’s a manual from 2009. It recommends a 500 meter clearance area during a catastrophic event that should be temporarily followed. It’s not a prescription for a setback. It’s not anything that is instituted at all times. It is kind of a temporary recommendation. That recommendation, that 500 meters…is no longer in the Vestas safety manual.”

Thornton said his company did provide the commissioners with a letter from Vestas, which explained the temporary setback recommendation he spoke of.