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The Crawford County Board of Supervisors continued their discussion of wind turbines in Crawford County during their May 25 meeting; the following is an edited and condensed account.
On April 27, the supervisors enacted a temporary moratorium on the construction of new wind turbine towers; the supervisors are gathering information to determine what changes they might make to the county ordinances that regulate the construction of wind turbine towers.
The moratorium will expire on July 1.
Two representatives of Scout Clean Energy, which plans to build a large wind turbine field south of Westside, attended the meeting.
In a discussion of how far the wind turbines throw shadows, Michael McGill, Jr., a contract land agent working with Scout Clean Energy, said the GE turbines the company plans to use are not as big as the Vestas turbines seen elsewhere.
McGill said Crawford County is a rare area that has wind all year.
Jim Rocca, of Omniroc, Inc., who is working for Scout Clean Energy, said the company has always used a quarter-mile as the setback distance from a wind turbine to a residence.
He said the towers are built 2,500 feet or farther from each other from north to south and not closer than 1,400 to 1,500 feet from east to west because the wind comes primarily from the north in the winter and from the south in the summer.
At a previous meeting, Mark Wengierski, Scout Clean Energy director of development, explained that the distance between towers is set to reduce turbulence that affects the turbines.
Supervisor Eric Skoog asked where the power will be sold after it is generated.
Rocca said the local utilities buy the energy and the credit for the energy can be purchased elsewhere.
“It’s like putting money in the bank,” he said. “You end up in Hawaii and you pull money out there – it’s not the same dollars.”
Supervisor Kyle Schultz said that when he was a secondary roads employee he had good experiences with wind power companies – and County Engineer Paul Assman would hold their feet to the fire.
He said the board wants to establish rules that will be good in 10 years – and asked how much the height of wind towers has increased over time.
Rocca said machines with double the output are only about 4% bigger than older machines, and the turbine blades have not increased in size that much.
The Bulletin and Review asked the supervisors how many people had made complaints about wind towers.
Supervisor Jean Heiden said she had spoken to an individual from the Vail area, though she wasn’t sure if the person was a landowner; she also spoke to an individual who might build a house in the country in Crawford County.
Schultz said that waiting until the county has 600 wind towers could lead to complaints to the board and questions of why something wasn’t done sooner.
Supervisor Ty Rosburg said he had spoken to an individual whose family member lived close to a wind tower, had headaches, and moved away. He said the supervisors are hearing a lot of different things.
Chairperson Jeri Vogt said she had spoken to one person who made a complaint to her about wind towers on several occasions.
McGill said he was perplexed that he had been working in the area for more than a year, and no complaints had been taken to him.
Asked by the Bulletin and Review whether a setback of 1,500 feet would work for the project, Rocca said it probably would work but it might mean fewer turbines in the project.
He said that decision was not his to make.
Schultz said the company could go to landowners and negotiate if the setback is increased.
Rocca said Scout Clean Energy started the project under the rules that were already set.
“Now we’re reconsidering them when we’re $4 million into this thing?” he asked.
“This is a $300 million project, all told.”
Higher setback distances might require the company to reconsider the options, Rocca said.
Schultz said the company could probably make 98% of the deals, but some people might not want wind turbines close to their homes.
He said the supervisors were not trying to shut down the project.
Rosburg said that the company might have less trouble in future years because of the declining rural population.
He asked again about a setback of 1,500 feet.
Rocca said he would defer the question to Wengierski.
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