LAFAYETTE, Ind.— The presence of a wind farm in Tippecanoe County could be nothing more than an idea if the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission approves the proposed amendment on banning large wind energy conversion systems.
The APC will vote Wednesday on whetherr to ban large WECS from being constructed in the county. It’s the first step in a process that could prevent the new wind farms. The cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette, as well as Dayton, Battle Ground, Clarks Hill and the Tippecanoe County commissioners would also have to approve the amendment.
Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh, who serves on the Area Plan Commission ordinance committee, said the banning of large wind energy conversion systems (WECS) was something the ordinance committee had been talking about for the past six to eight months.
“When you look at wind farms across Indiana and around the country, they are being proposed in areas with declining population that are truly rural,” Murtaugh said. “That is the case for the surrounding counties, but Tippecanoe County is growing.”
Murtaugh said Invenergy, a company that stores and generates energy across North America and Europe, had been looking at southern Tippecanoe County as a new site for a large windmill farm up until two months ago when the ban was proposed.
According to Invenergy’s website, no energy plans are currently in the works anywhere in Indiana.
Regulations on WECS have been in place since 2007, with updates made in years since, but concerned citizens brought the issue to the ordinance committee’s attention again in 2018, according to the APC’s staff report, seeking for the committee to revisit the regulations due to the size increase of large WECS.
The ordinance currently requires that a large wind system be setback from a non-participating property line by at least 750 feet and the setback from their dwelling be at least 1200 feet.
Murtaugh said that ordinance made sense when towers were constructed between 300-400 feet tall, such as those seen while driving along I-65 in Fowler, but large wind turbines today are being constructed to stand at 500-600 feet tall, roughly the height of the Washington Monument.
“We never thought they would begin reaching the 600 foot range,” Murtaugh said. “After discussion, we decided a complete ban was needed instead of continuing to make those adjustments to prohibit them into the future.”
Allowing large WECS could tie up thousands of acres of land for the next 50 years, Murtaugh said, which he believes would be economically irresponsible for a growing county like Tippecanoe.
The proposed ban doesn’t mean all WECS are banned, however, Murtaugh said. Wind turbines for for personal use that meet the height restrictions are appropriate, such as the turbines erected in 2011 to power City Bus’s administration, storage and maintenance facilities.
Area Plan Commission director Sally Fahey said small wind systems and micro wind systems will still be permitted as accessory uses in all zones where the primary use is permitted.
According to the APC report, small wind systems are defined as up to 140 feet tall, a nameplate capacity less than or equal to 50 kilowatts, and a swept area of 40 feet or less. Micro wind systems are defined as a system that is building-mounted that has a nameplate capacity of 10 kilowatts or less and projects no more than 15 fee above the highest point of the roof.
While the amendment is recommended for approval, the report says the staff hopes that this ban may be revisited sometime in the future.
“While the possibility of generating electricity by way of large wind turbines will no longer be an option in Tippecanoe County, staff and the commission still support renewable energy sources,” the APC report said. “This decision is not a reflection of the county’s attitude towards renewable energy sources, but rather it is a matter of location, the rights of neighboring property owners and an undesirable land use.”
The resolution banning large WECS would go into effect in each of the six areas if and when the ordinance is adopted.
The APC will meet to vote on Wednesday, April 17 at 6 p.m. in the Tippecanoe Room of the County Office Building, where the public is welcome to comment.
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