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Residents’ questions left unanswered after informational wind farm dinner

A barbecue meeting with representatives of a company that wants to develop a 30,000-acre wind farm in northwestern Boone County left a lot of questions unanswered, landowner Ashley Ernst said Thursday.

The meeting at the Harrisburg Lions Club drew about 100 people who wanted to learn more about the project planned by E.ON Climate & Renewables, the host of the dinner. Landowners drafted a list of 88 questions for the company about the potential impact of the wind farm on their land, their livestock, their crops and their property values during a Saturday meeting. They also had specific questions about the size of wind turbines the company would be using, where they could be placed and what sort of compensation landowners would receive if they allow them on their property.

The meeting was less than satisfactory, and people were not very happy, Ernst said.

“I don’t feel like we got some questions answered that needed to be answered.”

The company tried to address some of the residents’ concerns with a handout that included their questions along with information about the project, the company and the impact of wind farms in general.

A PDF containing the landowners’ questions and information from the company is embedded below.

The meeting was not open to the public. E.ON communications manager Matt Tulis wrote in an email to the Missourian on Tuesday that the company would be discussing proprietary information with the landowners that it would not want to see published.

The company representatives at the dinner cited several studies that were intended to appease the community’s worries, but Ernst said the representatives often stopped short of giving specific details, especially with the wildlife studies.

“They wouldn’t cite sources to the studies nor the conditions the studies were done in,” Ernst said.

Literature distributed by the company said that studies have shown there is no evidence wind farms cause property values to decline. The handout cited a 2013 study performed by the U.S. Department of Energy which found there was no statistical evidence that homes within 10 miles of different wind facilities had their values affected.

Ernst said property owners learned that the company would pay between $10,000 to $15,000 per year for each turbine they allowed to be built on their property. In its handout, E.ON said its lease agreements ensure stable payments to landowners for the life of the wind project and that initial contracts normally last 30 years.

“When considering the long-term revenue, the minimal property impacts, and the lifelong benefits to the local area and planet, most find it to be a worthwhile relationship,” according to the handout.

The handout also said that while no form of energy generation is free of impact, wind energy impacts are the lowest. Electricity with wind “emits no air or water pollution, requires no mining or drilling for fuel, uses no water in the generation of electricity, and creates no hazardous or radioactive waste.”

On average, a single turbine occupies roughly one acre, including its secondary infrastructure. Less than 2 percent of the leased land is disturbed by the turbines.

Residents were told at the meeting that E.ON would hire a third-party company to perform wildlife studies but said the information would be proprietary. E.ON also plans to hire outside contractors to develop the wind farm.

Many concerns about the noise of the turbines were voiced in the questions submitted. During the dinner, the company representative told residents the turbines would not reach louder than 30 to 40 decibels within a 500-foot range. Residents were also informed that the turbines would be located 540 feet from the property line or 1,000 feet from the farthest side of the resident’s home.

In order to move forward with the project, zoning regulations would have to change to adequately address a wind farm structure, said Stan Shawver, Boone County director of Resource Management. A work session that many attendees thought would start the discussion about zoning regulations was held Thursday by the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission. While several landowners were in attendance, nothing was discussed about the new regulations for the wind farm. Only plans to schedule future work sessions for the issue were discussed by the commission, but no official dates have been set so far.

Missouri ranks 21st in the nation with 499 turbines, according to E.ON. 2.3 percent of all electrical generation is provided by wind energy in Missouri. E.ON operates 23 wind farms in total.

Supervising editors are Scott Swafford and Claire Colby.