In an attempt to sway supervisors that the Worthwhile Wind project was not a danger to Worth County residents, Invenergy spokesperson Mark Crowl gave a lengthy presentation to the the Worth County Board of Supervisors on Monday.
But at least one supervisor remains openly skeptical about the project.
Worthwhile Wind is a wind energy project in development since 2018 in Worth County from Invenergy. The proposed project aims to build a wind farm of up to 30,000 acres in Worth and Winnebago counties.
There’s been significant opposition to the project, with detractors citing the negative impacts of turbines and broken promises made during the construction of the nearby Deer Creek wind farm, also created by Invenergy, as a reason for more restrictions on wind energy . Proponents of the project point to the $4.8 million in tax revenue it would bring for infrastructure improvements within the county.
Crowl gave the presentation to try and persuade the board away from adopting a proposed ordinance regulating wind energy, and to urge the board to move forward with a decision as Invenergy is ready to begin the next phase of the project.
“Worthwhile wind is a good project,” Crowl said. “It’s going to potentially bring a lot of jobs, a lot of economic development and a lot of things that Worth County can benefit from.”
Crowl said that Invenergy is going above and beyond to ensure that the project won’t negatively impact Worth County residents and that a developer agreement with Invenergy is all that’s necessary for the project.
The presentation detailed how Invenergy is taking a “cautious” approach by ensuring a 1,500-foot setback from all residential properties that don’t have an easement deal with the energy company, 30 hours of flicker per year, and a maximum sound output of 50 decibels. Crowl said that with the current proposed plan most, if not all, non-participating residents wouldn’t come close to any of those benchmarks.
Crowl also talked about the work Invenergy is doing with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to ensure the safety of Worth County land.
“This development agreement and where we’re at provides a very protective set of standards,” Crowl said.
Following Crowl’s presentation, supervisor Enos Loberg pushed back against Crowl’s comments. Loberg expressed concern over any impacts on non-participating landowners and that it was the duty of the Worth County Board of Supervisors to ensure that what happened in Deer Creek doesn’t happen again.
“Landowners that are non-participating need a bigger setback,” Loberg said. “We need to protect those people. We can’t have what happened in Deer Creek again, and we aren’t going down that road again … We’re here to protect the citizens.”
Invenergy’s Deer Creek project, from 2016 in the county township of the same name, verbally promised 1,500-foot setbacks for residents without an easement agreement, but did not deliver. Many have been critical of Invenergy and the Deer Creek project throughout the Worthwhile Wind process, including supervisors Loberg and A.J. Stone.
Crowl remained adamant despite pushback from Loberg that a developer agreement was the best way to move forward with the project and that any more restrictions imposed by an ordinance could potentially kill the project.
“Our company has done everything we can to address those concerns,” Crowl said. “The idea that these non-participating residents would be wrecked, or the property value would be destroyed is not the case.”
Neither supervisor Stone nor Mark Smeby commented on the presentation given by Crowl.
The supervisors will now wait for their legal representation to finish researching the project and ordinance before coming to an official decision, but the possibility of another question and answer session between Invenergy and the board of supervisors was discussed.
The wind ordinance was drafted by the Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission, and submitted to the board of supervisors in July. The board of supervisors now face approving the ordinance as is, make changes to it or reject the ordinance outright.
None of the supervisors have officially commented on their feelings about imposing an ordinance vs. just going with a developer agreement.
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