Alan Albers is tired of being characterized as a terrible ogre whose enthusiasm for wind turbines is selfish and greedy.
He rejects claims that low-frequency sounds produced by wind farms have adverse health effects and believes proposed legislation to restrict wind farm development would trample the rights of property owners who welcome payments that augment declining farm revenue.
Albers said he owns land in Kingman and Pratt counties and that his extended family has provided space for 21 wind towers.
“The idea that I or they would put people in jeopardy for wealth is totally offensive,” Albers said. “You can find everything you want to online, and you can see what it’s done to our society recently, and I think it’s totally ridiculous.”
Lawmakers in the House Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications are considering a bill introduced by Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, that would require any new turbines to be placed at least 1.5 miles from a residence and 3 miles from an airport, park or hunting area.
Supporters of the bill have complained about the noise produced by large turbines. They fear an unproven connection to health problems.
Clean energy advocates and companies that operate wind farms in Kansas described the bill Thursday as reckless, a sham, a grave mistake, a ploy, and an attack on free market capitalism.
Representatives for NextEra Energy and Enel Green Power said they have made billions of dollars in investments in Kansas, provided millions in payments to landowners, and created thousands of jobs through wind development.
Rob Stupar, an executive with Enel, said the company’s wind facilities in seven counties produce enough energy to power 500,000 U.S. homes. None of those facilities would exist if the proposed legislation were in place, he said.
“Passage of this bill as currently written would signal to the market that Kansas is not open for investment to the wind industry,” Stupar said.
Debra Teufel, president and CEO of the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce, said the county’s commitment to wind energy has allowed turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa to flourish there. Onerous setback laws have killed wind farm development in other states, she said.
“Any attempt ot pass this bill is a gross overreach to take away the local controls that already exist,” Teufel said.
Others testified to concerns with vague language in the bill that effectively could ban turbines in every property of the state.
The law would allow a property owner to claim a segment of land will be used as a landing strip without following through. Similarly, the bill doesn’t define a park or hunting area.
“We truly believe this bill is a siren call for anyone looking to stop wind development in Kansas,” said Kimberly Gencur Svaty, a lobbyist for an alliance of energy companies, investors and advocates.
In an interview, an environmental researcher at the Iowa College of Public Health said there is no credible evidence to support claims that wind turbines cause health problems.
Peter Thorne said only two academic, peer-reviewed studies have examined the low-frequency sounds produced by turbines. Both concluded there was no evidence the machines cause sleep disturbance, stress or other ailments.
If you think a sea of corn and soybeans is an idyllic landscape, he said, you might not like to see a wind turbine. That annoyance then manifests itself in claims of health problems that can be explained by other causes.
“While wind turbines may be an annoyance, they’re not producing lung and cardiovascular disease like fossil-fueled power plants,” Thorne. “The reason why they are annoying might have everything to do with not liking wind turbines for some other reasons, but not because of infrasound emanating from them.”
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