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Experts weigh in on ‘Shenandoah Hills’ wind farm project 

Credit:  Ethan Hewett | www.kmaland.com ~~

(Farragut) – Subject matter experts from around the state and country who have been assisting Invenergy with various aspects of a southwest Iowa wind project provided insight Monday.

At a public meeting hosted by Invenergy at the Waterfall Wedding Venue in Farragut Monday evening, a group of subject-matter experts and residents spoke on the proposed “Shenandoah Hills” project anticipated to cover over 40,000 acres south of Shenandoah in Page and Fremont Counties. Invenergy Development Manager Mark Crowl says nearly 45,000 acres have been secured through voluntary easements for the project. While there has been much debate on the minimum setback distance for non-participating landowners between officials and residents, Crowl says this project intends to have a larger distance than is required through the county ordinances.

“Take about a half mile around each and one of those turbines and look at what residences that are non-participating, the average distance to those non-participating residents is 2,200 feet,” said Crowl. “So it really greatly exceeds those minimums that are established there by the ordinance.”

Additionally, Crowl says, for the most part, the wind company based their project on the more stringent requirements between the two county ordinances, outside of county-specific guidelines.

During the presentation, several speakers discussed development, environmental and engineering impacts, health and noise, property values, economic impact, and land usage. Mike Hankard, an acoustic engineer assisting on various projects, including wind over the past 30 years, says both county ordinances limit noise on an A-weighted decibel scale or using the term dBA. Hankard says Page County currently has a limit of 55 dBA, while Fremont sits at 50.

“If you go to a rock concert your plus 100 dBA, 85 dBA is what the Occupational, Safety, and Health Administration limits noise in say a factory – if it’s above that you have to wear hearing protection,” said Hankard. “65 dBA is what a lot of the highway departments and airports limit noise, and coming down further 55 dBA is the number that the U.S. EPA came up with years ago that they call ‘protective of human health’ in a general sense.”

Hankard says a typical standard around the country for turbine noise limits can sit between 45 and 55 dBA.

He says a model is put together, including a measurement from the wind turbine production companies, such as Vestas, and noise monitors out in the field to determine the noise levels at each residence within and around the project footprint. With the proposed Invenergy project, Hankard foresees little issue complying with the provided county guidelines.

Dr. Mark Roberts, who spent 17 years with the state health department in Oklahoma before teaching nine years of occupational and environmental epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin, says at least according to government reports done from around the world, including Australia and most recently in the Netherlands in 2020, there appears to be no direct connection between wind turbines and specific health conditions. Still, the shadow flicker caused at certain portions of the day can pose some risk.

“The issue with flicker is Photosensitive Epilepsy and so what we see is that the Epilepsy Society was very clear in the U.K. about what flicker level is required – which is about 10 hertz,” said Roberts. “Whereas, with a wind turbine, when you look at their maximum speed and ideal circumstances it would be about .75 hertz.”

Additionally, Roberts says international guidelines recommend no more than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker on a specific residence.

Mike Marous is the President of Marous and Company, which often assists public bodies in determining the impact on property value from proposed projects throughout the country. Marous says there appears to be little impact on proximity to wind turbines through match-pair sales.

“A sale of a property that’s approximate to a turbine, and a similar property that’s not approximate or in the same area, to see if we can find if there is any reflection or impact based on an ongoing wind farm,” said Marous. “We have probably about 150 matched pairs that we’ve looked at throughout the Midwest and many in Iowa, and we haven’t found any negative impact on value.”

Marous says his company also reaches out to the assessor’s office in each county housing a wind project to discuss the project and any tax appeals that have been made based on allegations that the property has been impacted in value.

In terms of property taxes, Crowl says the “Shenandoah Hills” project is anticipated to generate nearly $115 million over the project’s 25-40 year lifespan. But, David Loomis, a professor of economics, says those dollars would be phased in.

“So you see the first year being zero, and then the assessed value goes from zero to 5%, 10%, 15%, each and every year until you get to year seven I believe it is,” said Loomis. “Year seven, you’re at kind of the steady state, and then the property taxes are the same from year seven onward.”

Loomis says the annual amount between the counties is roughly $2.9 million, but the actual dollars would be backloaded. Nearly $60 million of the $115 million is expected to go toward area school districts. In terms of contracting for the project’s construction in response to a resident’s question, Crowl says the hope is to initially source locally and reach out to other state or federal resources as needed.

More discussion on Invenergy’s “Shenandoah Hills” project proposal is expected at Tuesday’s Page County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Source:  Ethan Hewett | www.kmaland.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 educational 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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