January 17, 2020

Wind Watchers group still pushing for change in Gage County

Scott Koperski | Beatrice Daily Sun | Jan 16, 2020 | beatricedailysun.com

Gage County Planning and Zoning officials are still considering a request to enhance wind energy regulations in the area, but have yet to formally propose changing what’s currently on the books.

The commission held a discussion regarding the regulations during its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Prairie Wind Watchers is the group spearheading the requested amendments to Gage County’s wind regulations. The group is focusing on two specific changes it would like to see made by the county.

A primary concern is increasing current setback requirements that stipulate turbines must be 3/8 miles from residences. The group is asking that figure to be increased to one mile.

The group is also asking officials to make changes to how decibel levels are calculated.

Wording in the current regulations allows wind energy companies to conduct their own testing, which some think gives them an unfair advantage.

Four people attended the meeting to support amending the regulations, including Larry Allder, who lives near Cortland.

“We’re not trying to rewrite the regulations,” he said. “We think that technology has changed and turbines are getting taller and bigger. The latest now is that the newest turbines are 3.5 megawatts and can be over 700 feet tall. 3/8 of a mile has never been, and is, way to close for a turbine, period.”

Emily Haxby of Clatonia said she’s started a petition for the commission to make the changes, had has acquired more than 200 signatures. She emphasized to the commission that the changes wouldn’t impact participating landowners, those who have contracts with wind energy companies to put turbines on their land.

“We’re just trying to increase the setback to a one-mile setback from a non-participant,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that they can’t become a participant. It’s just giving the choice to those people that live in the area.”

Members of Prairie Wind Watchers have expressed frustration that their proposal was first made last March, and nothing has come of it yet.

The commission has held several discussions regarding the changes, but a member has yet to make a motion to reopen the regulations to formally consider and vote on the proposal.

“We have a group of people that want us to revisit those things and until we get a motion on the floor, I don’t think we can do anything more about it,” commission member Steve Whitwer said. “You guys have said ‘do you have an answer?’ Well right now, the answer without a motion on the floor is it’s staying the same way it is right now.”

No motions were made following the discussion Tuesday.

If it does decide to consider amending the regulations, a public hearing would be held at a future planning and zoning meeting. The group would then make a recommendation regarding the regulations to the County Board of Supervisors, which has final say in if they would be changed or not.

Discussions are expected to continue at the commission’s next meeting on Feb. 11.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2020/01/17/wind-watchers-group-still-pushing-for-change-in-gage-county/