The people have spoken — about 2,600 of them — and most don’t want the proposed Crab Orchard Wind wind farm near Fairfield Glade.
“We’ve gathered a lot of information we think helps our ability to make our decision,” said Bob Diller, president of the Fairfield Glade Community Club Board of Directors. “The survey results are supporting our decision."
The board unanimously approved a statement opposing the wind farm project at its regular monthly meeting Thursday. Specifically, the statement opposes the wind farm based on the potential negative impacts to property values in Fairfield Glade and the negative impact on future growth the project may have. It was passed following a motion from Misty Keyes with support from Harry Price.
Apex Clean Energy has proposed constructing a 71-megawatt wind farm, with 20 to 23 turbines reaching possible total heights of 650 feet, on Millstone Mountain, about two miles away from the closest area of Fairfield Glade.
The effect such a project could have on the retirement and resort community was underscored by a number of residents who said that, had they known a wind farm could be constructed nearby, they would not have moved to the area.
“I moved here about a year ago,” said Bob Kreglow. “Knowing what I know now, I don’t think I would have come.”
He moved from Florida where he knew 15 to 20 people who had moved south from areas with wind farms.
“Some were snowbirds because they couldn’t sell their house,” Kreglow said.
According to the survey, which was open to Fairfield Glade Community Club members for 26 days, 79.9 percent oppose the project while 20.10 support. Among supporters, 66.54 percent said they believed green energy is good for the country while 33.46 percent said the project was a financial benefit to Cumberland County.
Those opposing the project were asked to pick their primary reason for opposition: it will destroy the natural beauty of the mountains, 33.02 percent; opposition to the federal wind energy subsidies, 14.84 percent; health of self or others in the county, 10.31 percent; impact to view and property values, 19.77 percent; noise, 2.54 percent; and the environmental impact of the project, 19.52 percent.
Several stated they would have liked to have chosen more than one reason.
While many in the audience were glad to see the board oppose the project, several asked for an amendment to the motion to include other concerns — specifically possible negative health and environmental impacts.
Clintina Cooper Sims said, “Many of us moved here for a quality of life for our health and welfare. At the county commission meeting Monday, one person spoke to an issue I applaud very heartily. She specifically brought out the number of veterans, specifically those that have PTSD, and the effect that this windmill and everything else related to has on our environment that therefore can affect the quality of life, health and welfare of our residents. That’s the only thing I’m asking, that the motion not just pertains to property values.”
Noise was a concern to several. Though the noise level has been described as similar to the level of noise from a home HVAC unit, several questioned if that was the sound of one wind turbine or the total noise from all the proposed turbines together.
Kreglow said, “I was sitting on my porch the other day and I don’t want to sit there all day listening to a heat pump run.”
Concerns about health effects, including health effects on children attending Crab Orchard Elementary School, were also raised.
“It’s really a no-brainer,” said Sandra Baxter Dutcher, 9th District county commissioner. “At least 10 percent of the children will be unable to learn because they have 24-7 infrasound that you can’t hear, no one can hear.”
Though many in the community are opposed to the project, several wondered what recourse the community club has to oppose it. The project is being pursued by a private company on private land. It would require connection to high-voltage transmission lines owned by Tennessee Valley Authority and there may be some environmental permits necessary, but there are no ordinances in place that prohibit such projects in the area.
Sen. Lamar Alexander opposed the project in a speech on the Senate floor last month and, since that time, Congressman Diane Black, state Sen. Paul Bailey and state Rep. Cameron Sexton have all issued statements opposing the wind farm project. The Crossville City Council also approved a resolution opposing the project. An attempt to seek a vote from the Cumberland County Commission on a resolution opposing the project was unsuccessful at the June commission meeting, as the resolution was not presented in time to include on the agenda. It is expected the item will return in July.
Sandra Baxter Dutcher, 9th District commissioner, thanked the board for their efforts in researching the issue.
“We’ve been trying to get consensus within the county over the issue,” Dutcher said. “I’m sorry to tell you, as you saw the other night, we don’t have any consensus at the county level…There’s going to be another resolution. I have reason to believe this one might pass from what other commissioners are telling me.”
John Kopmeier said the county commission had options such as not allowing construction of new roads.
“Fairfield Glade is one of the largest taxpayers for the county,” he said.
Dutcher said there was a “statute” [sic] the county could adopt.
“If we adopt this statute, they could either abate or at least modify, so the health and welfare issues could be mitigated,” Dutcher said. “That is why it is so important we recognize there are health issues.”
The Cumberland County Commission does not approve statues, though they can seek a private act by the Tennessee General Assembly.
As for legal battles, 40.64 percent of those responding to the community club survey said they would support spending no more than $50,000 to oppose the project.
Stan Bruske said, “Whether you like the wind farm or whether you don’t, that’s up to you. But, in my opinion, $50,000 in legal fees is not going to go very far.”
Diller said the next step was determining options to oppose the project. That work is ongoing.