There are several news stories we've been following that we thought important to highlight this week given the similarities to other cases our readers are involved with.
In August, 2008, the Bingham County Idaho Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a special permit allowing the construction of a 150-turbine wind "farm" on nearly 20,000 acres along Wolverine Canyon. At the time, Commissioner Wayne Brower told news outlets that it was a "tough decision", but the "need for renewable energy won out". The area where the wind facility is proposed is locally designated as a Natural Resource/ Agriculture district which, by definition, does not permit industrial, energy-producing, structures.
County residents appealed the decision claiming conflict of interest involving two of the County Board members. They also argued that an industrial wind plant was not an agricultural use under County zoning, thus should not be permitted.
This week Bingham County Judge Richard St. Clair ruled in favor of the residents. According to his 38-page ruling, the Judge found that several errors were made by the County Board which rendered the proceedings unlawful under Idaho law. The developer, Ridgeline Energy, must now reapply for a special permit.
In the meantime, the Bingham Planning and Zoning board drafted a new wind ordinance that establishes setback requirements. We hope that after two years of controversy surrounding this wind proposal the County will take the time to listen to those residents who will be negatively impacted by the development and find a way to address their concerns through the county ordinance.
Earlier this summer we reported on a story from Libertyville, IL involving a 120-foot tall, 50 kilowatt Entegrity wind turbine erected within 250-feet of residential properties. Despite assurances from the owner, Aldridge Electric, and Libertyville officials, that the turbine would be quiet and blade/shadow flicker would not be a problem, the noise and other nuisances proved unbearable to the neighbors. A civil suit was filed and in July Lake County Judge Mitchell Hoffman issued his final compromise ruling confirming the turbine was causing harm to nearby residents and ordered turbine operation restricted to weekdays between the hours of 9am to 3pm.
The transcript of the Judge's decision includes important information on nuisance law in Illinois. Since this decision, Libertyville officials voted to impose a six-month moratorium; Village Trustees asked the village's plan commission to consider possible changes to the rules governing electric power-generating facilities.
The State of Rhode Island, in its aggressive pursuit of wind energy development, announced the selection of Deepwater Wind to develop a privately financed project off Rhode Island's coast. Deepwater is currently moving forward with a pilot project to be sited within 2 miles of Block Island.
Public reaction to industrial-scale wind turbines is largely untested in Rhode Island, but the State is well aware of the powerful opposition that delayed the Cape Wind proposal in nearby Massachusetts. To gauge public acceptance of the turbines, surveys were sent to 1,484 voters on Block Island. Of the 547 surveys completed and returned, an overwhelming number supported the siting of the project either onshore or offshore, with one important condition - that the facility would be far enough away to be "impossible to hear".
RI residents need to be aware of reported noise problems at similar projects. Windaction.org is in close contact with residents of Cape Vincent, New York which is situated 2-3 miles from Wolfe Island off the coast of Ontario. Eighty-six turbines were erected and commissioned on the island this spring.
One Cape Vincent resident wrote this:
"From the Village of Cape Vincent the turbines on Wolfe Island can easily be heard. The sound is like a jet flying over at altitude and it is very distinct. It also resembles the sounds emanating from outside a large, busy city. If you are in a calm spot protected from the wind the sound is really clear."
This week, our contact reported that "atmospheric conditions were just right last night. At 6 to 7 miles away the turbines could be heard. Loudest so far."