POSEYVILLE – The company proposing wind farms in Gibson and Posey County is still working to lease thousands of acres of property in the two counties.
E.ON Climate and Renewables hosted a public informational meeting Wednesday at North Posey High School where Karsen Rumpf, wind development manager, gave updates on the project to date.
Rumpf reported 55 leases secured in the Gibson County central area – which amounts to 10,500 acres. There have also been 109 leases in the western Gibson County and in Posey County – which amounts to 16,500 acres.
The project timeline continues into 2020, with aspects like mine subsidence study and electrical design layout slated for November 2019. Future needs still include county road maintenance agreements, estimated for March 2020, and a variety of federal, state and local permits estimated to be procured from July 2019 to April 2020.
Rumpf also showed estimations of the commercial property tax revenue for the areas, and which townships they would most impact. For the Gibson Central project, estimates are at $51 million in property tax revenue, with 70 percent in Patoka Township and 30 percent to Montgomery Township.
The company estimates $38 million for the Gibson West/Posey County portion broken down as 40 percent Rob Township; 40 percent Smith Township; 10 percent Montgomery Township; and 10 percent Johnson Township.
All estimates were based on 30-year project life.
The presentation included a variety topics including sound with Hankard Environmental president Mike Hankard; health with Dr. Mark Roberts; economics with Illinois State University professor David Loomis; property values with appraiser Michael MaRous; and environment with Courtney Dohoney from Ecology and Environment Inc.
Community members who have voiced concerns since the announcement of the project have often focused on the potential noise turbines would create, the proposed setbacks and possible interference with the National Weather Services’ Doppler radar.
Hankard spoke to the issues of sound. “Wind turbines are always on and they’re always seeking the wind,” he said. “So even when it’s calm you’ll hear some of those motors. They’re faint, it’s no different than a distant guy starting a car or something like that.”
Hankard said you don’t hear the gears and insides of a turbine working, but what’s heard is aerodynamic noise, the sounds of the blades cutting through the air.
Hankard said blades start to turn when hub-height winds reach eight miles per hour. At 22 miles per hour, the turbines reach full speed and will put out the maximum noise.
Hankard said he has heard concerns that as wind speeds get faster, turbines will get louder.
As the wind would increase past 22 miles per hour at hub-height, Hankard said the blades do not go any faster and therefore do not get any louder. “For safety reasons, and mechanical design reasons, they only go so fast, he said.
Hankard said for this project, he suggested a design goal of 45 dba, which are weighted decibels, meaning the expression of the relative loudness of sounds in air as perceived by the human ear.
Based on health recommendations from the World Health Organization and annoyance of noise, 45 dba will be the maximum at any non-participating residence. This calculation is reached by putting the future design plans into a computer model and making changes as necessary.
The issue of setbacks was not addressed during the presentation but was briefly mentioned after a crowd member asked who they could speak to about it during the question and answer session.
Brad King, vice president of development, said the setbacks are something that will be discussed continuously throughout the process and are “not set in stone.”
Lease agreements on setbacks were originally proposed as a 1,250-feet setback from any residence, 550 feet from any road right-of-way, 550 feet from existing structures or power lines, and if an adjacent landowner doesn’t agree to a lease, the turbine would be no less than 550 feet from their property line.
He said once sound tests are completed, the setbacks will be a function of those results. “If we have to expand for a responsible sound limit we will do that,” he said.
Rumpf said they were unable to get the doppler expert they had hoped to have on hand for the forum, due to scheduling conflicts.
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