Wind Farms: Where Do They Belong? How To Protect Your Community
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Wind Farms: Where Do They Belong? How To Protect Your Community

Wind Farms, where do they belong? Industrial sized wind turbines are making their way into residential settings, find out how to protect your community from adverse effects of wind turbines.

The American Dream, my family had been chasing it and were elated to feel like we had gotten a piece when we purchased a farm house to renovate in a quite rural setting last year. Country life was not foreign to us and we made assumptions about the quiet life dotted with occasional tractor traffic at harvest time, we assumed the wildlife and grazing farm animals would be delightful to watch from our windows and porch. We had no way of knowing our township was crafting legislation that could forever change our American Dream into an industrial wind farm. 

I am writing this article to accomplish one goal, to urge readers to investigate their community and make sure they are protected from some of the adverse affects of wind energy. I realize there is much debate as to the need, efficiency and outputs of industrial sized wind turbines and I do not intend to address that side of the issue as there is too little data available.  The scope of this article is not to be for or against wind energy but to educate people who may face living amongst the turbines.

As we met new neighbors and integrated into the community we started hearing undercurrents of a Canadian wind energy company targeting our community for an industrial wind farm. My first thought was “where would they put it?” Again with our assumptions, we envisioned vast deserts and hundreds of acre stretches of open fields as the setting for the big turbines, I never thought they would be peppered in amongst houses and barns. Apparently our town measured high on a wind chart and with government subsidizes funds available it didn’t take much for this company to eagerly pursue 68 land lease contracts with residents. As word spread other residents began to realize if their neighbor allowed these 450’ tall turbines on their property, they would be living right under them. This realization led to an investigation of our current ordinance concerning wind energy…a very weak and vague ordinance. 

As neighbors rallied to protect themselves from the effects of industrial wind turbines the citizens who held contracts with the wind company fought to keep the current ordinance in place (it is also written into their lease agreements with the wind company that they attend all meetings and promote wind energy) For the lease agreement holders a sizable amount of money was at stake if the ordinance did not favor a turbine on their particular property. 

We began to get involved as we were surrounded by landowners with lease agreements. After attending some public hearings and planning meetings I realized I needed more information. I have created a list of areas I found useful to research when faced with industrial wind turbines in your neighborhood:

  • Town Legislation. It was necessary that I understood how ordinances worked and what the process to get one amended or put in place was. In our town a citizens group was already working on amending the ordinance and placing a moratorium on wind energy to “freeze” activity until it can be researched further.
  •  Noise and vibrations. Industrial wind turbines are going to produce noise and vibrations. A well crafted ordinance will include stipulations on noise and vibration levels and possible testing guidelines to ensure noise and vibration levels are being maintained. Click here for links on noise provided by www.knowwind.org.
  • Setbacks. In our case this is the single most important question concerning the ordinance…how close to our property lines can the turbines be placed?  Wind energy being a newer issue has a varied range of setback footage from community to community. In California some places require 2 miles away from other property while our ordinance had a listed setback of 660 feet. We are hoping our township will consider at the very least a half-mile setback from our property. When establishing setbacks try and consider every aspect, will all neighboring properties be safe if there is a malfunction, will the placement of the turbine interfere with neighboring properties ability to build or expand on their land? How far do setbacks need to be to avoid shadowflicker and health problems?
  •  Shadowflicker. To view a video of shadowflicker click here.  I had never heard of shadowflicker until it was mentioned at a public hearing. A responsible ordinance will limit placing turbines where shadowflicker can occur on others properties.
  • Decommissioning. What is going to happen when the turbines break or a wind company goes out of business? Making a decommissioning plan ahead of time will make sure your township or landowners do not end up with a giant clean up bill. The amount of cement placed in the ground to hold turbines is enormous not to mention the blades and pole itself. This is often left out of an ordinance simple because it wasn’t thought of.
  • Birds and Wildlife. Being a steward of the land involves making sure your township is also looking ahead for the birds and wildlife. These massive structures that generate noise and vibration will impact wildlife. There is a notable mortality rate for birds who get caught up in the actual turbines but they will also alter flight patterns and habitats.
  • Property values. While there is no way to ensure property values will maintain or increase with time some reasonable forethought into an ordinance will help wind turbines have less of a negative effect on your property values.
  • Safety and Overall Health. Wind turbines can and will break. There is also a byproduct called ice throw where the icy buildup on the blades lets loose and is slung away causing risk to anything in its path. An every increasing group of people have come forward claiming the turbines have caused loss of sleep, anxiety, constant noise that have all accumulated into what is being called “Wind Turbine Syndrome”.   As I have researched wind turbine syndrome it is again so new and lacked enough historical data for me to form an opinion on, however, I do want to know that if community members experience these effects from a wind turbine the township has a plan in place to address these claims.
  •  A grievance process. Townships should have a clear and thoughtful grievance process in place ahead of time so residents can deal with any situations that may arise when wind energy is present.

I hope you take away some points to ponder when deciding if your feel your community is protected from wind turbines. I realize some may try and accuse me of not "going green" and that could not be farther from the truth.  As a mother of three I am always looking for ways to better the future.  Again this is not meant to give the pros or cons of wind energy, simply to get people thinking and informed so communities can decide for themselves what is best for the residents of their community in relation to wind energy.

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Comments (2)

I never had imagined that companies would build windturbines among houses. I had always imagined them, as you said, in an open field. In one of my friends' neighborhoods, a company decided to replace electric posts with big, obtrusive electric towers, which both lowered the property value and posed a health risk. Your article was very informative and interesting to read. Thank you!

Life always gets in the way. When man messes with nature, something happens. When power saving options messes with the community it's a disaster. Whoever sats in the office to make the signatures to get this project done has a lot of things to consider. If he happens to reside at the spot where a wind farm should be built, I'm absolutely sure he will not affix his signature considering the ill effects.

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