Wednesday evening, many people showed up at the Rushville Courthouse at the BZA meeting to see what the end result would be for the West Fork Wind Project.
Originally, Zach Melda, NextEra’s project manager, said the project would be spread throughout Fayette, Henry and Rush Counties. Rush County would be looking at about 22 turbines while Henry would have nine and Fayette 56. He stated in a slideshow that this area was ideal for the project due to strong and consistent wind levels, availability and proximity to electricity transmission lines, willing landowners, supportive community and well positioned market location.
At the last meeting in November, the BZA was concerned with the setbacks and the height of the turbines. The members decided more time was needed to research the project before a final decision was made.
Wednesday night, after only a few moments of discussion, the BZA board gave the answer after the board tabled the decision for almost a month.
NextEra submitted in writing and proposed a new setback of 1,500 feet from a non-participating resident.
“I make a motion that we accept the application if setbacks are set back moved to 2,640 feet from and property line and the height restricted to 200 foot for turbines,” Steve King said. Dohn Green seconded the motion.
"If they are set at 2,640 feet, it will reduce the flicker, protect human health, property value and sound/vibrations," King said. "The lower height is less visually intrusive. I think the trees would help screen them.”
"My primary concern has been looking over my rural landscape and I have heard too many people talk about their concern with the same thing,” King said.
“For miles and miles they would be visible and if they were 200 feet, I think they would be less intrusive," Green explained.
This is the second company that the BZA board has approved the project, but with further setbacks.
"We are disappointed Rush County BZA members elected to impose height and setback limits on the project that go well beyond what’s needed and could result in depriving citizens of the millions of dollars in financial benefits and clean energy the project would provide," Communications Manager for NextEra Energy Resources Bryan Garner said. "The setbacks we proposed for the project go above and beyond what turbine manufacturers recommend and are more than sufficient to provide for the health and welfare of residents. There’s no rationale for the half-mile setbacks BZA members imposed other than prohibiting wind development. Likewise, the 200 foot height restriction is prohibitive. As commissioners know, modern wind turbines are nearly 500 feet tall (from ground to tip of highest blade). We are currently assessing what the BZA’s actions will mean for the West Fork Wind project in Rush County."
The West Fork Wind project is already permitted in Fayette and Henry counties.
"We fully intend to build a project those communities can be proud of, and one that they will benefit from for years to come," Garner added.