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Wind farm construction side effects disturb land owners

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Wind farm construction side effects disturb land owners

Rutted paths snake through cornfields eventually ending in giant circles around pink-tipped poles standing in wetlands, ravines and in the middle of trampled cornstalks. This time it wasn’t a cyclone that hit Cyclone Road in Brooklyn Township: it’s the heavy equipment of Goldwind USA as they resume development of Shady Oaks Wind Farm.
Paths chopped through fields sometimes don’t go anywhere at all. Other paths leave only a few rows of corn standing on either side. Farmers such as Wesley Englehart and Charlene Zimmerman are left wondering how they’re going to get the crops out of the field next month around the mounds of dirt and with only slim stands of corn left in some fields.
Englehart, Zimmerman and her brother, Alan, are among landowners that signed on to the project back in 2005 when GSG Wind Energy of Sublette started the development. The project was then sold to Mainstream Renewables which in turn partnered with Goldwind USA late last year. The project was then fully acquired by Goldwind, a company that got its start by constructing wind turbines in China. The 120-megawatt Lee County wind farm is the first large-scale project undertaken by the company following a 4.5-megawatt pilot project in Minnesota.
Englehart and the Zimmermans are now learning the hard way that the 2005 contract included a lot of implied agreements between the landowners and the developers. They both reluctantly noted the original contract left a lot of control in the hands of the developer and they didn’t anticipate the project would change hands so many times.
Charlene Zimmerman said they were led to believe the turbines would generate 2-2.5 megawatts each; instead the company only makes 1.5-megawatt turbines which means they plan to erect 70-72 turbines on farms in Brooklyn Township instead of the originally-anticipated 50-60 turbines.
The increased number of turbines results in more heavy equipment and machinery trekking through corn fields and down township roads. Englehart said they sent the first wave of subcontractors out in the spring when the ground was still wet.
“They started boring right after a heavy rain,” Englehart said. “They created these two-foot-deep ruts.”
A different subcontractor arrived to work on another portion of the project but headed off in their own direction through cornfields, cutting paths and making more ruts, Zimmerman added.
The final map of turbine locations also causes some concern for Englehart and Zimmerman.

 

“This down the road here, it’s registered as a wetlands,” Englehart said. “If they put it in there, it would be underwater if we have a heavy rain.”
Zimmerman said turbines on her family’s property will soon be constructed in areas that turn into ponds every spring and down in ravines.
To get to these locations, the company will bring in huge equipment for construction and installation. As a township supervisor, Englehart also criticized Goldwind for a lack of communication with subcontractors. Roads that were not meant to be used have been prepared for turbine-construction traffic in areas where there are no turbines planned. Other subcontractors have made paths through fields that aren’t even part of the project, Englehart added.
Construction timing also makes no sense to Englehart. He said they came in and started bulldozing row after row of corn while leaving the primarily Round-Up ready corn mixed with the top soil. They started the bulldozing after the corn started maturing and now the ears of corn mixed with topsoil will continue germinating for the next few years, Englehart said. The large piles of dirt ringing the remaining corn will make it difficult for combines to even get in the fields this year, Zimmerman added.
He estimates losses at $30,000-$50,000 on his land alone. According to the contract, Goldwind USA is obligated to compensate him for the loss.
“Had they did it in the spring, there would have been very little damage,” he said.
Access isn’t a problem for the wind farm subcontractors though, Englehart said. Since township bridges are up to 50 years old, they cannot support oversize traffic. Instead, they created their own road right through Englehart’s cornfield and bordering wildlife conservation habitat. Bridge replacement would have cost approximately $200,000, a cost the company chose not to pay in order to reach sites where another 11 turbines will be constructed.
“I had no problem with Mendota Hills or the one on the other side of the county line,” Zimmerman said. “But this contract is you’re basically signing your life away. The contract says they can basically do anything on your land.”
Goldwind USA is contractually obligated to repair any damage to township roads and the landowners will continue to receive income from the land used for turbines, but even those guarantees are now in question based on the company’s current construction practice.
“The contract says we’re supposed to get our money the moment they started grading,” Zimmerman said. “I’m not sure that everybody has their money yet.”
Compensation for the loss of this year’s crops could delay planting next year since they have to wait for a formal statement of acres lost to the construction. Then Englehart and Zimmerman worry about the compaction to the soil and any crushed tiles that drain water from the fields. Englehart said problems with tile could take several years to detect.
Then farmers will have to watch for the buried electric cables transmitting power from the turbines to a substation. Unlike other wind farm projects, the cables will run directly from turbine to turbine rather than along township and turbine access roads. That leaves Englehart and Zimmerman with more concerns about soil compaction and later field work.
“You’ve got the driveways, you’ve got the crane paths, you’ve got the circles (around the future turbines),” Englehart said. “It’s a nightmare.”
Englehart and Zimmerman also gave Lee County Board member Lisa Zeimetz of Paw Paw a tour of some of the areas bulldozed for construction. Ziemetz said there is little the county can do since the project is under township jurisdiction. She did ask them to be available to help counsel landowners that may be involved in future projects.
“I understand they have the right to do this, but it doesn’t seem kosher,” she said.
A message left at Goldwind USA’s Chicago office was not returned. Previously published reports state Goldwind anticipates completing the project by the end of the year.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 10:15
 

Tipton County, IN--Wind Turbine Meeting Draws Hundreds

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This photo, taken at Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, was amog those shown at Saturday’s program, and depicts wind turbines of the same height as those proposed here, as seen from eight miles away.

Between 300 and 400 people filled the Culver Elementary School gymnasium Saturday morning for what was billed as an informational meeting sponsored by Concerned Property Owners of Southern Marshall County, Indiana. The topic of the day has become a hot one in recent weeks and months in the area: the proposed placement of more than 60 400-plus foot wind turbines across several thousand acres in parts of Marshall and Fulton Counties by Florida based energy company Nextera. Three presenters detailed concerns raised by some in the area over the project, which was formally denounced by Culver's Parks and Recreation board recently.
Lake Maxinkuckee resident Mark Levett, who added he grew up in the Plymouth area, opened the event by noting the intent was "to represent facts and not get too emotional." He showed a map of the proposed area of some 17,000 acres and explained Nextera is owned by Florida Power and Light, "the largest operator of wind turbines in the U.S."
Levett also described the blades for each turbine as stretching from one end of the gymnasium to the other, and the towers as 45 stories high.
"They're visible for 10 miles," he said. "That's basically (comparable to skyscrapers in) downtown Indianapolis."
Levett said the turbines do not reduce power rates and while they "have a lot of green features...you don't have them unless they're subsidized.
"The average statistic is you need about 30 percent subsidies to make wind turbines viable. The industry has been around for 30 years and you still need a 30 percent subsidy."
He also pointed out two European countries are moving wind turbines offshore to avoid some of the complications they cause near human and animal residences.
"Reported symptoms (of those living near existing turbines) include headaches, blurred vision, nausea sleeplessness, ringing and buzzing in your ears, dizziness vertigo, memory and concentration problems, and depression. For every article that says there are no health effects, there's one that says there are."
Levett said Marshall County's present ordinances call for turbines to be placed 1,000 feet from homes, while he said doctors nationwide are recommending a distance of one and a half miles for safety. The impact on livestock from voltage surrounding the towers has also been controversial, he added, as has bird and bat kills by the blades, though he acknowledged the question of "how many is too many (killed)" is up for debate.
"There's no controversy about this," Levett said. "If you're in sight of a turbine, it causes you to lose land value -- six to 30 percent."
Prior to the meeting, as audience members filed in, a Youtube video showing "shadow flicker" effects inside and outside a home near an existing turbine was shown in rotation on the gymnasium's screen. Levett also showed photos taken at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and nearby Lake Winnebago, where dozens of turbines were clearly visible.
"Those turbines are eight miles away," he said of the photos. He referenced a full-page advertisement published by Nextera in the August 11 Culver Citizen, which noted the company is moving its study area three miles to the east (further away from Lake Maxinkuckee). The move would still leave the turbines highly visible on the Lake Maxinkuckee skyline, according to Levett, who again referred to the Wisconsin photos as examples.
"This will be our new view from the lake," he said. "Get informed -- it's a big decision for Marshall County."
Steve Snyder, an attorney engaged by the event's sponsoring organization, detailed the county's procedures regarding the project, explaining the decision to accept or reject Nextera's proposal will ultimately be made by the Marshall County Board of Zoning Appeals, which he said is required by its own ordinances and state law to consider several factors in its determination.
First, Snyder explained, the project "can't be injurious to the public's health, safety, and welfare." It must meet development standards in the Marshall County zoning ordinances. It must not permanently injure property or uses in the vicinity, "which means," he added, "will it reduce property values? I would suggest the evidence is conclusive that you will see a drop on property values when your property is in visibility of one of these things."
Lastly, the project must be consistent with Marshall County's comprehensive plan, which Snyder said does not anticipate wind farms, and so isn't a serious consideration.
The BZA, he noted, must consider "every aspect of a project at a public hearing," which will take place after an application has been filed, which has not yet occurred in this case. He emphasized counter-evidence to that presented by the petitioner -- in this case Nextera -- should be presented in that hearing, though Nextera "has the burden of proving those four elements (required for the project's approval) I just discussed."

Setbacks from homes, said Snyder, are one factor to be considered.
"If somebody puts a tower up and you own a building site within a thousand feet,” he said, “you're prevented from building on your own land."
Other factors include security and noise, which is limited here to 55 decibels. Further, he said, a decommissioning plan is required for the project to prevent abandoned wind farms as exist in some parts of the country.
"Essentially you're looking at a minimum of one public hearing at which five members of the county commission will hear from Nextera."
Rounding out Saturday’s program was a detailed presentation from Roger McEowen, a professor in Agricultural Law at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where he is also the Director of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.
McEowen encouraged the audience to read up on the details of his presentation as well as legal issues for landowners potentially negotiating a lease with wind companies, on the Center's website at www.calt.iastate.edu.
He primarily focused on the benefits and drawbacks on wind energy nationally and globally. Currently, he said, wind generates about one percent of the United States' power needs, though some have proposed that by 2020, six percent will be wind-derived.
"However," he added, "the U.S. Energy Administration's annual energy outlook for 2006 concluded that by 2030, wind power would supply no more than 1.2 percent of U.S. energy if current incentives and subsidies stay in place."

McEowen emphasized subsidies are driving the wind energy industry today, and questioned whether -- in light of present budgetary woes on the federal level -- those subsidies will hold out much longer.
Further, states like Iowa, California, Minnesota, Texas, and Kansas, some of the top wind energy production states at present, differ from Indiana in that each has large amounts of open space away from people, he said.
On a map McEowen showed from the U.S. Department of Energy depicting most and least viable locations to place wind farms, some parts of Indiana were rated "fair" for placement, but the local area designated for placement was blank, ranking it of dubious viability.
When asked why a company would choose to build here under such conditions, McEowen noted Marshall County has "good access to the (energy distribution grid)."
He also suggested the company will profit because of subsidies offered per kilowatt hour for wind generated.
McEowen described motives for the current push for wind energy development nationally, including improvements in the industry's technology, high fuel prices, mandates in 29 states requiring certain amounts of generated energy to be renewable, difficulty in launching new coal-fired power projects, and financial viability of wind projects due to tax credits and other subsidies.

He refuted the claim that wind energy makes the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil. Petroleum, he said, only generates eight tenths of one percent of American electrical power. Instead, most domestic electricity comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear power.
The wind industry wouldn't exist, McEowen said, without federal incentives, and the income tax credit per kilowatt hour for electricity produced by a qualified wind facility is 2.2 cents. Many states also subsidize wind energy, he said, alongside reductions or exemptions from state or local property sales and other taxes.
Some states, such as Wyoming, McEowen noted, are taxing wind companies due to the full "social cost" of wind farms to taxpayers, ranging from road construction and repair to police and fire protection related to the farms.
While wind farms do create jobs, McEowen added, since most jobs are due to government subsidies, the net effect is simply a shift from non-subsidized labor to subsidized, rather than creation of genuinely "new" jobs.
"When Spain reduced its alternative energy subsidies," he said, "thousands of jobs were lost."
Also discussed was whether industrial wind farms constitute "the next generation of nuisance lawsuits." McEowen detailed possible legal claims from neighbors of wind turbine-hosting land, ranging from ice throws when blades -- which can spin at more than 150 miles per hour -- ice up, to malfunction or lightning strike-rooted fires, interference with radio or TV signals, to aforementioned health impacts on adjacent landowners. He cited several studies on the health effects of the turbines.
Most courts, he emphasized will only recognize nuisance claims after the towers have been installed, rather than in an anticipatory manner. Instead, it was noted the local legislative process is the best manner to address concerns before wind farm placement.

Property values have been shown to be negatively impacted by proximity to the turbines in some studies, McEowen said, by 10 to 30 percent.
"All this is related to how close these are to your home or business," he added. "Does this part of the country have enough open space to get these away from people?"
Among topics discussed in a question and answer session near the close of the program included potential conflict of interest for any members of the county's BZA, something Snyder said is required to be disclosed by county and state statute.
"Typically, (conflict of interest) means there's financial benefit flowing to one who votes that could affect his decision," he added.
Also discussed was the effect of the farms on Doppler radar for weather predictions. One group member said a wind farm near Lafayette, Indiana, causes the appearance of a major storm to be constant on radar-based weather maps, creating "trouble predicting tornadoes."

 

Invenergy's California Ridge Project (Vermillion and Champaign Counties, IL)

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URBANA — The first of a series of public hearings on a proposed wind farm — the inaugural wind complex in Champaign County — is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington St., U.

The county Zoning Board of Appeals will consider a request from Invenergy LLC of Chicago to authorize development of a 30-turbine wind farm in the northeast quadrant of the county just north of Royal in Compromise and Ogden townships. The Champaign County wind farm is part of a larger complex, known as the Calfornia Ridge Wind Energy, that includes 104 wind turbines in Vermilion County. Together the 134 turbines would have a generating capacity of 214 megawatts, and would be valued at approximately $350 million.

The head of the county's zoning office, John Hall, said there's no indication how many people will turn out for Thursday's hearing. Additional meetings are scheduled for Sept. 1, 8 and 29, Hall said. In the past, county officials have said they want the project to go to the county board for its approval in October.

"We haven't been getting a lot of calls so we don't have any idea what to expect," said Hall, the county zoning administrator.

Because there are so many facets to the wind farm case, including reclamation agreements, road agreements and waivers to standard conditions in the county's special-use permit process, a vote by the zoning board of appeals isn't expected until Sept. 8 at the earliest, Hall said.

"And even that, when you start having these meetings every week, that intervening week goes so fast that it's difficult to get much done," he said. "It would be great if we could walk in there on the 8th and finish it.

"What's at issue here is, Does this proposal meet the requirements (in the county wind farm ordinance)? Some people might want to talk about how inadequate those requirements are, and they might be able to make that relevant. But for the most part this will be about, Are the already existing requirements met here or not?" Hall

Two major issues that still have to be resolved, Hall said, are the reclamation and road agreements.

"We don't even have a draft of a reclamation agreement yet," he said. "That's the principle thing that will protect the county board in the long run if this thing ends up going bad. That's critical."

Champaign County's reclamation agreement requirements are more extensive than most other counties, he said. It sets up the process for removing the 492-foot-tall towers and foundations and returning the sites to agricultural use once the project is decommissioned. According to the company's petition to the zoning board, properly maintained wind turbines have a minimum life of 20 years.

"In the event that they have bad luck, go bankrupt or whatever, the reclamation agreement are the rules that take over and ensure the county that either these (towers) will be take down in an orderly manner, and that there's been adequate assurance provided either in the form of a letter of credit or in an escrow account, or that we find some way to get a new wind farm company to take over the project," Hall said.

"I have no doubt that we'll get something that meets our requirements. But it's just a challenge for them now," Hall said.

Similar negotiations for road improvements are going on with the road commissioners in Compromise and Ogden townships.

In a Aug. 18 letter to the zoning board of appeals, the commissioners say that their roads will require upgrading "to withstand not only the overweight and oversize vehicles which will travel over the roads, but also the enormous number of gravel and cement trucks required to build the turbine foundations and access roads."

Invenergy estimates construction of the wind farm will generate 75 large truck trips a day and up to 200 small vehicle trips during a 9- to 12-month construction period.

"We remain optimistic that the terms of a road agreement can be reached within the next few weeks," wrote Marvin Johnson, the road commissioner in Compromise Township, and Greg Frerichs, the road commissioner in Ogden Township.

"They've been working on that a long time and it's sort of frustrating that they don't have an agreement yet," Hall said.

Despite the problems, Hall said, he believes the wind farm will be built in Champaign County.

"We've been told that if we can't come to an agreement in Champaign County, they'll put them all in Vermilion County," he said. "That's something we're sensitive to. But I think we'll get our 30 (turbines) and I think it will be a great project. This is just something we have to work through."

Construction could begin thi

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 09:52
 

Whitley County Concerned Citizens

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http://www.wcccitizens.org/

REALITIES & LEGALITIES
~ other perspectives on industrial wind  energy ~
~  now available for viewing  ~

Very special thanks to our guest speakers,
Professor Roger A. McEowen and Dave & Stephanie Hulthen.


Click here to view Part 1 - Professor Roger A. McEowen discusses legal &
tax issues surrounding wind energy production and landowner agreements.

View the complete article by Professor McEowen, "Wind Energy Production:  Legal
Issues and Related Liability Concerns for Landowners in Iowa and Across the Nation".

Click here to view Part 2 - Dave & Stephanie Hulthen give their firsthand
description of what it's like to live in the middle of an industrial wind installation.
Click here to visit Dave & Stephanie's blog.

Picture


Please check out a great group to our north.  We attended this seminar and it was highly informative.  If you have the chance please watch the segments.  It will be worth your while.  Thanks to Whitely County Concerned Citizens for putting it on their website!

 

Peer-Reviewed Special Bulletin

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Author: Phillips, Carl

Abstract
There is overwhelming evidence that wind turbines cause serious health problems in nearby residents, usually stress-disorder type diseases, at a nontrivial rate. The bulk of the evidence takes the form of thousands of adverse event reports. There is also a small amount of systematically-gathered data. The adverse event reports provide compelling evidence of the seriousness of the problems and of causation in this case because of their volume, the ease of observing exposure and outcome incidence, and case-crossover data. Proponents of turbines have sought to deny these problems by making a collection of contradictory claims including that the evidence does not “count”, the outcomes are not “real” diseases, the outcomes are the victims’ own fault, and that acoustical models cannot explain why there are health problems so the problems must not exist. These claims appeared to have swayed many non-expert observers, though they are easily debunked. Moreover, though the failure of models to explain the observed problems does not deny the problems, it does mean that we do not know what, other than kilometers of distance, could sufficiently mitigate the effects. There has been no policy analysis that justifies imposing these effects on local residents. The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement, and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias.

Carl V. Phillips, PhD
Populi Health Institute

This is a preliminary draft of the following article in press:

Carl V. Phillips, “Properly Interpreting the Epidemiologic Evidence about the Health Effects of Industrial Wind Turbines on Nearby Residents,” Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, vol. 31, no. 4 (August 2011), pp. 303-315.

Download original document: “Properly Interpreting the Epidemiologic Evidence about the Health Effects of Industrial Wind Turbines on Nearby Residents”

 

Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, August 2011, 31(4)

Wind Turbine Noise

John P. Harrison
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Abstract: Following an introduction to noise and noise regulation of wind turbines, the problem of adverse health effects of turbine noise is discussed. This is attributed to the characteristics of turbine noise and deficiencies in the regulation of this noise. Both onshore and offshore wind farms are discussed.

The Problems With “Noise Numbers” for Wind Farm Noise Assessment

Bob Thorne
Noise Measurement Services Pty Ltd, Enoggera, Queensland, Australia

Abstract: Human perception responds primarily to sound character rather than sound level. Wind farms are unique sound sources and exhibit special audible and inaudible characteristics that can be described as modulating sound or as a tonal complex. Wind farm compliance measures based on a specified noise number alone will fail to address problems with noise nuisance. The character of wind farm sound, noise emissions from wind farms, noise prediction at residences, and systemic failures in assessment processes are examined. Human perception of wind farm sound is compared with noise assessment measures and complaint histories. The adverse effects on health of persons susceptible to noise from wind farms are examined and a hypothesis, the concept of heightened noise zones (pressure variations), as a marker for cause and effect is advanced. A sound level of LAeq 32 dB outside a residence and above an individual’s threshold of hearing inside the home are identified as markers for serious adverse health effects affecting susceptible individuals. The article is referenced to the author’s research, measurements, and observations at different wind farms in New Zealand and Victoria, Australia.

The Noise From Wind Turbines: Potential Adverse Impacts on Children’s Well-Being

Arline L. Bronzaft
GrowNYC, New York, New York, USA

Abstract: Research linking loud sounds to hearing loss in youngsters is now widespread, resulting in the issuance of warnings to protect children’s hearing. However, studies attesting to the adverse effects of intrusive sounds and noise on children’s overall mental and physical health and well-being have not received similar attention.This, despite the fact that many studies have demonstrated that intrusive noises such as those from passing road traffic, nearby rail systems, and overhead aircraft can adversely affect children’s cardiovascular system, memory, language development, and learning acquisition. While some schools in the United States have received funds to abate intrusive aircraft noise, for example, many schools still expose children to noises from passing traffic and overhead aircraft. Discussion focuses on the harmful effects of noise on children, what has to be done to remedy the situation, and the need for action to lessen the impacts of noise from all sources. Furthermore, based on our knowledge of the harmful effects of noise on children’s health and the growing body of evidence to suggest the potential harmful effects of industrial wind turbine noise, it is strongly urged that further studies be conducted on the impacts of industrial wind turbines on their health, as well as the health of their parents, before forging ahead in siting industrial wind turbines.

Infrasound From Wind Turbines Could Affect Humans

Alec N. Salt, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
James A. Kaltenbach, Lerner Research Institute/Head and Neck Institute, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Abstract: Wind turbines generate low-frequency sounds that affect the ear. The ear is superficially similar to a microphone, converting mechanical sound waves into electrical signals, but does this by complex physiologic processes. Serious misconceptions about low-frequency sound and the ear have resulted from a failure to consider in detail how the ear works. Although the cells that provide hearing are insensitive to infrasound, other sensory cells in the ear are much more sensitive, which can be demonstrated by electrical recordings. Responses to infrasound reach the brain through pathways that do not involve conscious hearing but instead may produce sensations of fullness, pressure or tinnitus, or have no sensation. Activation of subconscious pathways by infrasound could disturb sleep. Based on our current knowledge of how the ear works, it is quite possible that low-frequency sounds at the levels generated by wind turbines could affect those living nearby.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 09:50 Read more...
 


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