Leaders are pushing for loosened wind energy regulations in Lancaster County.
A coalition of business, labor and civic leaders braved a windy morning Friday to call on Lancaster County leaders to approve policies that will allow wind energy development.
The group has begun collecting signatures for a petition that expresses support for “balanced policies that allow wind development" in Lancaster County.
The Lancaster County Board approved regulations Nov. 10 that establish noise limits of 40 decibels in the day and 37 at night for wind turbines.
The regulations "make it next to impossible to develop wind energy in our county,” said John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union.
The noise limits county officials approved were significantly tougher than limits proposed by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission, which had recommended limits of 50 decibels during the day and 42 at night.
Plans by Oregon-based Volkswind USA to build more than 50 wind turbines in southern Lancaster and northern Gage counties prompted reconsideration of the county’s existing wind regulations.
David Levy, a Lincoln attorney representing Volkswind USA, said Friday the company still plans to develop a wind farm in the area but likely will focus its efforts in northern Gage County. He said the project is expected to generate $500,000 in new property tax revenue for local governments.
“That’s real money and real property tax relief,” he said.
State Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm said wind energy projects could help Lancaster County leaders pay for much-needed bridge and road improvements.
“It makes great sense to allow and encourage wind energy development in Lancaster County,” he said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer.”
John Markey, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 265, said wind energy projects could bring good-paying jobs to the county and provide work for local construction workers and contractors.
Chelsea Johnson, deputy director of the Nebraska League of Conservation Voters, said Nebraska ranks third in the nation for potential wind energy development but only 20th in actual production.
Hansen said new wind energy projects in Nebraska are generating $5.3 million in annual income for farmers and landowners who rent land to wind energy companies, $8.6 million in annual local tax revenue and $2.3 billion in total capital investment.
He said the 37-decibel night noise limit imposed by the County Board is similar to the sound of a library interior when no one is talking.
“This is not a realistic level,” he said.