Fleming area residents want to present a united front when dealing with NextEra Energy concerning a planned wind farm to go in west and south of the town.
According to information presented at a “town hall” meeting at Fleming School Monday night, the company intends to install 80 wind turbines in an area of about 150 square miles west, southwest and south of Fleming. there already are 42 turbines turning in a Western Area Power Authority wind farm north of Fleming. Those were installed in 2012.
A little more than half of the three-dozen people who attended the meeting indicated they are absolutely opposed to the new wind farm while the rest indicated they are either in favor or undecided about it.
“We want people to know, we are pro-energy, providing those resources are used safely. If we can remain a united community, that would be best.”
No one from NextEra attended the meeting but organizers said they hope to meet with company representatives soon.
Questions asked at the meeting fell into two categories; property rights and environmental concerns.
Attorney Jenna Keller of Steamboat Springs attended the meeting by phone and answered questions about property rights. A native of Haxtun, Keller also provided a handout with basic information about dealing with wind generation companies.
Keller said it is vitally important to have one’s own attorney examine any contract before signing it. Crucial areas to examine are clear definitions of terms, a clear understanding of how lease payments will be calculated, and a written plan for removal of the turbines once the lease is terminated.
Most importantly, Keller said, landowners to not have the ability to re-negotiate a contract while it is in effect.
Keller said most leases include a gag order clause that prohibits the landowner from discussing the terms and conditions of the lease. “Just say no to those,” Keller said.
A recitation of possible environmental impacts, including adverse effects on people’s health, drew mixed reactions from the audience. Robin Walker and Marc Simmonds talked about the effects of “shadow flicker,” noise pollution and other impacts on human health. Shadow flicker is the flickering effect caused when rotating wind turbine blades periodically cast shadows through windows of neighboring properties. It usually is controlled by slowing down or stopping the blades during those times of the day when the shadows are most prominent.
While there are numerous claims that the noise and proximity of wind turbines can cause headaches, interrupted sleep patterns and other health problems, Walker and Simmonds were unable to provide any definitive information about health effects.
Peer-reviewed articles about the issue say such impacts could occur, so effects should be mitigated where possible, but there’s no recorded data of it happening. In 2011 Parsons Brinkerhoff, a multinational engineering and design firm, prepared a report for the British Department of Energy and Climate Change. That report concluded, “(T)he shadow flicker effect did not constitute a significant harassment. However, under specific conditions the increased demands on mental and physical energy, indicated that cumulative long-term effects might meet the criteria of a significant nuisance.”
The meeting’s organizers, Tony and Lauren Gerk and Cindy Vandenbark, said they will try to put together a working group to get and disseminate information before anyone signs long-term leases.
“It’s important that we present a united front when we talk to NextEra,” Tony Gerk said. “We don’t want a situation that divides the community and we have neighbors not talking to neighbors.”
Simmonds told the group it would be best to present themselves to NextEra as “pro-energy.”
“We want people to know, we are pro-energy, providing those resources are used safely,” he said. “If we can remain a united community, that would be best.”
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