Ted Hartke, his wife Jessica and their two children, Phillip (age 9) and Sophia (age 6) resided in Vermilion County Illinois just 1665 feet from the nearest 1.6 mW GE-100 wind turbine. Instead of making final preparations for their 2013 Christmas holiday, he moved his familiy into a double-wide mobile home eight miles away from Invenergy's California Ridge wind energy facility. The project consists of 138 turbines rated at 1.6 megawatts each standing 495 feet tall. This testimony was delivered to the Vermilion County Illinois county commissioners on May 28, 2013 prior to his abandoning his home. Other families remain in their homes with no place to go. Neither Ted Hartke, his family or his neighbors were aware that turbine noise would be a problem until the project went into service. The image to the right is the Christmas card that 6-year old Sophia Hartke gave her parents after they left their home.
My name is Ted Hartke. I am a professional engineer and professional land surveyor, and I own Hartke Engineering and Surveying, Inc. My dad, Phil, and my brother, Dave, are both farmers. As a land surveyor, I know how emotional and protective people are about their land and the rights they have to get the most out of their property. This wind farm issue is very difficult to deal with, and I have an important story to tell you.
I live in the center of the InvEnergy California Ridge wind farm located in Vermilion County, Illinois, consisting of 138 turbines rated at 1.6 megawatts each and being 495 feet tall. Before our project started, and throughout its construction, I had no issues with my county’s decision to create our existing wind industry ordinance including all of the details within it regarding setbacks or other matters. I did not know or worry about noise pollution. There had been some negativity about noise, so during the summer of 2011, I parked under a wind turbine near Bloomington Illinois on our way to Phillip’s church camp. I turned off the car, and myself, my wife, and my kids all got out to walk around and look at things. I could hear light wispy air “whooshing” sounds. I could hear a tractor in a field a mile away and also birds chirping about as loud as the blades’ air disturbance. I thought I had very little to worry about the noise from turbines about to be constructed near my home in Vermilion County.
We managed to get through the dust, traffic, construction noise while our road was reconstructed in front of our property. It was exciting to see the huge turbine components hauled past our house. For me, things were friendly between me, the construction crews, and the wind farm representatives. Everything was “just fine.” We thought we had lived through the worst part of the project. In January (2013), our noise problem began. We had a couple bad nights of engine whining noise. We thought we might get used to it….sort of like people become accustomed to living near busy highways or train tracks. However, our noise was lasting all night long, kids were waking up numerous times every night. It was totally unexpected….a complete shock. We were unaware of how the noise was going to change our lives.
I am requesting that, before you vote on this, think about the resident like me who will invite you to stand in their bedroom to listen to the noise. While you are there, he or she will introduce you to their precious children. You will have the opportunity to sit down and discuss with the kids about how it makes them feel. While there are few things worse than a sick or injured child, I believe that hurting them by allowing wind turbines to be constructed too close to their homes is unforgivable.
If you still want to proceed with allowing wind farm development under this weak ordinance, then maybe you should think about how stressed you will be when your names are listed on the lawsuit for voting in support of the inadequate setbacks and no way to enforce noise violations. Now is your opportunity to stop and think about it. If a wind farm chooses not to enter your county based on noise restrictions, then you know that they do not have the capability to fulfill their “good neighbor” promise. Put your noise restriction in writing and include a corrective action to address it such as night-time turbine shutdown upon a legit noise complaint.
Don’t be afraid to change your mind. When I have said “no” to my kids, my employees, my clients, and my family, they went through a short period of unhappiness, but I always wanted to do what was fair to everyone involved and still be able to provide for them. You will earn my respect and the respect of wind company representatives…..they may not like it, but they will respect it. It is OK to change your mind in the course of exploring all of the avenues and throughout the presentation of facts. Opening the door to the first wind farm development is like selling the business or the home farm…….you only get one chance at doing it right. Try to learn from other’s mistakes and make adjustments accordingly. Learning from your own mistakes is a harder way to go about it.
When you became a board member, I hope it was to serve your community. If you are seated at this table, and your interests are about self-preservation for you and your friends, then you are in the wrong room.