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Tempers flare at Jansen meeting regarding wind farms  

Credit:  Tempers Flare At Jansen Meeting Regarding Wind Farms | By Gordon Hopkins | The Fairbury Journal-News | April 12, 2022 | fairburyjournalnews.com ~~

“I need you to remain civil. I’m asking you to remain civil.”

This admonition was repeated multiple times by Kesha Eldridge, chairperson of the Village Board of Jansen, during a meeting to discuss the future of wind energy in Jefferson County on Tuesday, April 5.

While a moratorium preventing new wind turbines from being erected in Jefferson County is in place, the campaign on both sides of the controversial issue of wind farms is continuing. Members of a Facebook group called Jefferson County Wind Watchers, which is largely in opposition to new turbines in the county, requested to be placed on the Jansen Village Board agenda to discuss proposed changes to regulations governing wind turbine construction in the county as well as a proposed new wind farm, Big Blue Wind.

There is already one wind farm in the county, Steele Flats Wind Farm near Diller, owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources. Eldridge asked Matthew Jones, project developer for NextEra, to attend the meeting and answer questions.

NextEra has four wind projects and one solar project in Nebraska, including Steele Flats.

Jenna Wietzki and Danielle Ross Schwab, administrators for Jefferson County Wind Watchers, were in attendance at that meeting. Eldridge is also a member of that Facebook group.

Big Blue Wind

The regulations that cover wind farm construction in Jefferson County were written in 2013. In September of last year, the county issued a moratorium on new construction to respond to changing technology. Wind turbines can now be considerably taller than when the regulations were first written and the Planning and Zoning Committee was given the job of reviewing and recommending changes to those regulations.

Steele Flats, which currently has 32 wind turbines in Jefferson County and another 12 in Gage County, would not be impacted by those new regulations and will still be governed by the old regulations.

How the regulations will be applied to the new proposed wind farm is more complicated. NextEra has acquired 43 leases for wind turbines for the Big Blue Wind. The proposal calls for 90 leases. According to Jones, those 43 leases already established will come under the old regulations, while any new leases will have to follow the new regulations.

Jones told FJN that, despite the controversy, no leaseholder has asked to be released from the lease.

According to NextEra, Big Blue Wind will have a capacity of approximately 300 megawatts of renewable energy.

The turbines at Steele Flats are 427 feel tall. Turbine at the new project are expected to be taller. Jones said, “There’s a long way to go. But we’re looking at turbines that are 550 feet tall.”

Jones also noted that there is no high limit in the current regulations.

Schwab said, “I have heard through the rumor mill that there are going to be turbines between 600 to 700 feet. Is that accurate?”

“That sounds like a Facebook fact,” said Jones. He reiterated that the expected height of the towers will be 550 feet tall.

Jefferson County Commissioner Gale Pohlmann attended the meeting. He asked, “You guys know how tall the KUTT radio tower is? They advertised a 700 foot-tall tower.”

Public Information

The meeting got especially heated when discussing how information about the proposed wind farm is made public. Jenna Wietzki asked, if the Big Blue Wind project goes forward, “How do you notify us?”

Wietzki said, “And I think my biggest problem in the whole process is the lack of transparency. You’ve been working with commissioners for some time, most of the constituents that I spoke to did not know that this could happen here. And we are very disappointed with that lack of transparency. So tell me how do you plan on informing the public?”

This issue has been raised before. At a meeting of county commissioners on March 8, Schwab said, “I do speak for those when I feel like something is underhanded, when I feel like there’s no voice on it, when I feel like they might not know what’s going on.”

It should be noted that the Jefferson County Wind Watchers Facebook page, of which both Schwab and Wietzki are administrators, was first created on June 30, 2021.

When it was pointed out that, in addition to public notices in print and online, the Fairbury Journal-News has published a series of stories in the subject of wind farms and including dates when future meetings are to be held, one unidentified attendee said, “I don’t feel I should have to go buy a newspaper.”

Pohlmann said, “I’m not going to call everybody up and tell them that we’ approved something. Read the paper.”

Another attendee, Leonard King, responded, “Oh, that’s a cop out.”

King also said he had been unaware of the proposed wind farm until recently. However, when asked how he did want to be notified, King did not provide an answer. Others were also asked. One person suggested placing a notification in the post office. Another said postcards should be mailed out.

The Fairbury Journal-News compiled all stories pertaining to wind farms and released a free online edition on March 11. The edition is still available for free at www.fairburyjournals.com. A future online edition with additional stories and updates is planned in the coming weeks.

The complaint that NextEra has somehow been operating in secret is not unique to this area. A 200-turbine wind farm is currently under consideration in Republic County Kansas. According to a report in the Belleville Telescope, Republic County Commissioner Ed Spichal has become frustrated with accusations of secrecy.

“This has been out there since 2017,” said Spichal in a recent interview, referring to a public meeting held at the Cuba Community Hall.

“I don’t know how many people were at that meeting, but the building was full. It was advertised and we tried to get people there because we didn’t want to be accused of doing something back door.”

Prior to the meeting, FJN reached out to Wietzki and asked, “Do you want to see wind turbines banned altogether or do you just want stricter regulations?”

Wietzki responded, “Please send all queries to our lawyer.”

The Attorney representing the Facebook group is Scott Gropp. FJN asked this question of Gropp, who said he had no comment at this time.

Source:  Tempers Flare At Jansen Meeting Regarding Wind Farms | By Gordon Hopkins | The Fairbury Journal-News | April 12, 2022 | fairburyjournalnews.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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