Windmill flap

I used to like to sit out in my back yard with my wife and my little wood burner on gorgeous summer nights. It was dark and relatively quiet and lovely.

Then my neighbor’s garage was broken into and he installed a big flood light out back. My neighbor on the other side then paid RP&L to reinstall the streetlight in our alley. I didn’t like it and it wasn’t as much fun to sit out in the back yard at night, but that was their prerogative.

I understood then and I’m used to it now.

Anyway, the Wayne County Commissioners this week have voted to limit wind energy conversion systems, industrial windmills they are called, making it more difficult to get permission to install one that is over 15 feet and under 100 feet above the roof tops, and making it damned near impossible to have a windmill over 100 feet.

That could kill a proposal from a wind energy company called EDP Renewables to install a wind farm in northwest Wayne County, part of a wind farm that would extend into Randolph and Henry counties.

In Wayne County, wind turbines 15 feet tall and under are permitted. So are turbines 16 to 100 feet tall but they require a variance of use from the county board of zoning appeals for study and approval.

But wind turbines taller than that are not permitted, which pretty much nixes the EDP project. Their plans call for about 100 turbines with towers that would be 300 feet tall with a blade span of 495 feet.

They would produce electricity that the company would then sell for a profit. Its production output would not, as I understand it, directly benefit Wayne County residents.

But there is due process. Anyone wishing to install an industrial windmill can always go to the BZA and try to make a case for it. But one of the criteria BZA folks would use in their ruling would be hardship, and it would be a tall order for someone to argue that they were suffering a hardship if they couldn’t install a 300-foot wind turbine.

Anyway, a meeting of the Wayne County Advisory Plan Commission Monday drew more than 200 people, the majority of whom opposed the wind farm in Wayne County. They argued a drop in property values, disruption of idyllic rural life through noise pollution and health concerns, scrambled logic in trying to put 100 turbines in a somewhat populated area, adverse economic impact, problems with decommissioning structures if the company went bankrupt, Chinese Communist bandits trying to infiltrate the American power grid and bird decapitation.

Now I’m a true believer that wind energy should be an important component in the effort to meet the future fuel source needs of this area, the region and the nation. Global warming is real and we have to do something to address the problem for future generations.

But I must admit that I’m conflicted on this project. The need for development, implementation and use of wind energy systems, I believe, is vital. But this does not appear to be a good fit for Wayne County.

Yes, there would be benefits locally, like a sizable increase in the assessed value of land in the county, which could benefit all taxpayers, and financial rewards for landowners choosing to host wind turbines.

But this is not a light in a back yard. There clearly would be an impact on “country life” that could go beyond fouling the scenery. It could impact property values, though research I’ve seen is split on that issue. And I don’t believe a wind farm is an economy-killing or job-killing prospect.

Some people just don’t want to look at them, which is not an important criteria in county government’s decision making process. Still, that sentiment fires people to rise up in opposition.

I can’t say that I would want to have a wind farm in my neighborhood, or anywhere nearer than, say, Randolph County (I don’t get up there much). I drive Interstate 65, by the ones near Lafayette, and in central Illinois and they are interesting, but not something I would want to look at every day.

Still, if they installed a wind farm near me, say somewhere around Centerville or Fountain City or Reeveston, it would impact my every day life But it appears that that will not be happening any time in the foreseeable future.

Which is sad since I’m a believer in property rights and there are a number of people in Wayne County in favor of a wind farm here. But I also believe in the “greater good.” Neighbors clearly do not want a wind farm in their midst.

This time the greater good won out. I want this community to grow and prosper. I’m just not sure this is the way.

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