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A “wind farm” planned for eastern Carroll County continued to be a topic of discussion at the county quorum court’s regular meeting on Tuesday, July 18.
Scout, based in Boulder, Colo., plans for the Nimbus project to expand over approximately 9,000 acres – about 14 square miles – in Carroll County, much of it along County Road 905 southeast of Green Forest. Scout says the project could generate up to 180 megawatts of electricity at peak demand – enough to power almost 30,000 homes. Scout says it has signed lease agreements with more than 50 landowners and estimates that the 30-year project will generate more than $14 million in lease payments and $25 million in tax revenue for the county.
The planned project has drawn vigorous opposition from opponents who say it will be harmful to wildlife, have adverse health effects and pose a potential safety risk for humans and potentially cause significant damage to county roads, along with disturbing the natural beauty of the area.
The planned wind farm has been a topic of public comments at quorum court meetings for the past several months, with some justices of the peace responding that they have no authority to intervene in the project.
County Judge David Writer, who presides over quorum court meetings, limited public comments regarding the project at the court’s last meeting on June 20, because JPs were set to discuss the project as an agenda item at that meeting.
At the July 18 meeting, Writer said he would allow “a few more” public comments on the issue.
A total of eight speakers addressed the wind farm during public comments, with opponents to the project repeating their concerns about the potential impact on the environment and the health and safety of animals and humans. Other speakers expressed opposition to any potential county legislation that would prohibit property owners from doing as they please on their own land.
Writer continued to allow public comments until no other members of the audience raised their hands to speak.
“Don’t let it be said that I didn’t give you time to talk,” Writer said. “I don’t want to hear no more of that. I don’t want to hear any more of it. I gave you plenty of time. Nobody wanted to talk.”
Green Forest mayor Don McNeely also spoke during public comments, expressing support for a proposed emergency ordinance on the meeting’s agenda that would place limitations on “data centers” operating in the county. The quorum court later approved that ordinance by a vote of 8-1. During his public comments, McNeely said the city of Green Forest will be considering identical legislation.
Later in the meeting, during the time reserved for justices of the peace to comment on non-agenda items, county clerk Connie Doss read a witten statement from District 2 JP Bruce Wright, who was absent.
In the statement, Wright said he “will not stand or support” the Nimbus project.
Wright’s statement says he has “weighed out the good and the bad.”
“I wanted to go on the record with this statement for Judge Writer and the other JPs and the public,” Wright’s statement says. “Factors especially like public safety, environmental and health are my concerns. This project of wind farms would become detrimental to our great county and community.”
JPs heard an update from Torrie Smith and Monty Rexwinkle of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service’s Carroll County office.
Smith is the extension agent for family and consumer science and Rexwinkle is the extension for agriculture for the local office, which receives a portion of its funding from the county.
EMERGENCY ORDINANCE District 10 JP Jerry King, who sponsored the emergency ordinance that places regulations on data centers – particularly limiting the sound volume coming from those centers – said it was modeled on a similar ordinance recently adopted by the Boone County Quorum Court.
The ordinance is aimed at “cryptomining.” Crypto mines use large numbers of computers to “harvest” digital currency. Fans are needed to keep the computers cool, which residents near existing cryto mines in Arkansas have said creates a constant high-pitched hum.
In addition to the noise, King said cryto mines also can create a strain on the electric grid.
“Carroll County doesn’t have the excess power to do this thing,” District 1 JP Jack Deaton said. “It would mean rolling blackouts if something like this was built here.”
King also said the crypto mines are “funded through China.” He said he sponsored the proposed ordinance as an emergency bill because of the Arkansas Data Centers Act that was adopted by the state legislature during its 2023 session.
The new state law, which prohibits “discrimination” against data mining centers, will take effect Aug. 1.
“After August 1, quorum courts cannot do anything about this,” King said. “That’s why I asked for an emergency clause for this.”
As an emergency ordinance, the proposal required a two-thirds vote of the 11-member quorum court for approval. It passed by a vote of 8-1, with District 4 JP Hunter Rivett casting the only dissenting vote. In addition to Wright, District 3 JP Harrie Farrow also was absent.
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