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Woodbury County Supervisors hear arguments from advocates and opponents of wind turbine setback distances  

Credit:  Mason Dockter | Sioux City Journal | Aug 11, 2022 | siouxcityjournal.com ~~

SIOUX CITY – Dozens of wind turbine opponents, and a much smaller number of wind turbine advocates, packed the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday evening for a discussion of the county’s commercial wind farm setback distances.

The supervisors are considering amending a wind energy ordinance that would increase the distance between wind turbines and residences in the county, from the current 1,250 feet to a potential 2,500 feet. Supervisor Rocky De Witt originally proposed the 2,500-foot setback after residents contacted him seeking to increase the distance between wind turbines and homes.

Representatives of MidAmerican Energy Company, which has proposed a large wind installation in Woodbury County, said during the meeting that a 2,500-foot setback would hobble the entire project, due to the fact that it would put large swaths of land in the county off-limits because of the proximity to residences.

Among the myriad, emotionally charged concerns raised by the wind-turbine opponents during Tuesday’s lengthy meeting:

  • A sentiment, apparently widely shared among the turbine opponents, that wind turbines are visually displeasing and would alter the aesthetics of rural Woodbury County; 
  • Worries that wind turbines are noisy and would harm the quality of life of people who reside in their vicinity; 
  • A dislike of the blinking red lights at the tops of wind turbines, visible at night, which serve as a warning to airplane pilots; 
  • A sense, also apparently widely shared, that wind turbines would benefit those who own land in rural Woodbury County but live elsewhere, and benefit MidAmerican itself, to the detriment of those who live in the vicinity of the turbines; 
  • Potential environmental issues, including the idea that turbines would deface or otherwise injure the Loess Hills; 
  • Concerns that property values would decline as a result of nearby wind turbines; 
  • Anecdotes involving residents of nearby counties and other states regretting or resenting wind turbine projects; 
  • Concerns that the footings of wind turbines put agricultural land out of productive use; 
  • A sentiment that wind turbine advocates are shortsightedly concerned with financial benefit, and allegations that wind turbines produce little monetary gain; 
  • And assertions that wind turbines are associated with population loss in places where they are erected. 
  • “The vote you make today, and in the following weeks, will change lives, and this county, for decades, if not forever, and not for the better,” said Larry Fillipi, of Anthon, Iowa, who made an impassioned plea for the supervisors to increase the turbine setback distances.

    The wind-turbine opponents presented the supervisors a petition with more than 720 signatures to the board in favor of the increased setbacks.

    Advocates of wind turbines who spoke up cited the environmental benefits of wind turbines, which generate far less carbon emissions than the burning of coal or natural gas; the noise issues raised by the opponents, the advocates said, are exaggerated; and, they said, the rights of property owners who wish to do with their land as they please would be threatened by allowing neighbors to dictate what can be done with land.

    “I think that wind turbines are beautiful,” said one of the wind-turbine advocates at the meeting.

    “I have grandchildren, I want them to have a clean-energy future,” he added.

    MidAmerican’s representatives responded to several of the turbine opponents’ assertions in a presentation – after most of the opponents had already left the room – citing studies that wind turbines do not have a negative impact on property values, and pointing out that wind turbines have a good safety record. They also said MidAmerican plans to explore airplane-safety options for wind turbines that don’t involve red lights blinking incessantly at night, and added that MidAmerican seeks to “minimize” the noise associated with the turbines. They also said that MidAmerican hadn’t planned to install turbines within the boundaries of the Loess Hills.

    They pointed out that property owners would receive somewhere between $76 million to $92 million over the roughly 40-year lifespan of the project and that the county would receive around $150 million in tax revenues.

    Increasing the setback more modestly – to 1,500 or 1,600 feet – would be more workable, MidAmerican’s representatives at the meeting said.

    “A 2,500-foot setback would effectively allow somebody a a half-mile away to decide what you can and can’t do with your property,” said Adam Jablonski, a vice-president of resource development at MidAmerican, who spoke at the meeting.

    After the public comments, Supervisors De Witt, Matthew Ung and Jeremy Taylor spoke in favor of increasing the setback distance. Keith Radig and Justin Wright were opposed, citing an opposition to the “tyranny of zoning” laws and lamenting that neighbors can’t hash these matters out themselves, and instead rely on government to provide regulatory solutions.

    “Nobody seems to remember that there’s now two – there was four – coal-fired power plants sitting along the river. You don’t even notice them unless you’re going by on the interstate. I have yet to find somebody that wants to to stare at 90 to 100-some-plus wind turbines out there, blinking lights,” said De Witt, referring to MidAmerican’s coal-fired Neal power station south of Sioux City, where he worked for 22 years.

    Additional discussion of the turbine setbacks is planned for the supervisors meetings on Aug. 16 and Aug. 23.

    Source:  Mason Dockter | Sioux City Journal | Aug 11, 2022 | siouxcityjournal.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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