Residents are speaking out against a pair of proposed wind farms north of Crawfordsville.
A group called No Wind Farm Montgomery County says the projects are too close to neighboring homes and pose risks to public health and the environment.
Proponents say some of the concerns are unfounded, and that the farms will spin cheaper, cleaner power into thousands of homes.
The showdown takes shape as energy companies face backlash in other Indiana counties from residents who don’t want the tall, energy-converting turbines in their back yard.
In 2013, Sugar Creek LLC, a subsidiary of Akuo USA, finalized plans for a 100-turbine farm in Madison and Sugar Creek townships.
Since then, 4,500 acres of land has been acquired from 35 landowners, according to the company’s website.
Crews hope to begin construction in 2019, project manager Nick Gebauer said.
An additional 3,200 acres has been secured from 30 landowners for a second phase.
The other project stretches across parts of Coal Creek, Madison and North Union townships.
Apex Clean Energy is in the “very early stages” of the Roaming Bison Wind farm, which is expected to power about 80,000 homes.
The number and locations of turbines have yet to be determined, company spokeswoman Cat Strumlauf said.
Other Apex projects have ended up in court. Last month, the Indiana Supreme Court denied the company’s request to appeal a lower court’s ruling that upheld setback requirements for a proposed Rush County farm.
“The concern is that once the turbines go in, you have problems selling your home and you might just be forced to abandon your home,” said Tisha Southwood, who lives within a mile of the planned Sugar Creek project.
“But the whole key is whether people can continue to live there and a maintain a quality of life,” she added.
The group argues the farms will hurt property values and is raising health concerns over the noise generated by the turbines. Other members also fear contamination of nearby waterways during construction.
Multiple research reviews have concluded there is little evidence of direct harm from the turbines.
For Akuo’s part, landowner concerns are addressed one-on-one on a case-by-case basis.
“Some of the concerns are unfounded,” Gebauer said. “We think it is good when people are concerned about a large project because it does change the landscape.”
At Apex, developers are speaking with landowners in the target area to gauge interest and determine the project’s feasibility.
“No one has approached us with concerns, but we do want to keep the community informed about wind energy in general and Roaming Bison specifically,” Strumlauf said.
The company has set up a website outlining the project at roamingbisonwind.com.
County commissioners aimed to address public health, safety and welfare concerns with a wind farm ordinance, which passed in 2009.
Developers are required to have a building permit, decommissioning plan and other agreements before breaking ground, according to the ordinance.
In addition, noise should not exceed 60 decibels from the nearest home or business.
Turbines must be at least 1,000 feet from dwellings of participating homeowners and at least 1,300 feet from those not participating. Companies can apply for a variance.
Given advancements in wind energy technology, Southwood said the ordinance is outdated.
She added it doesn’t take into account World Health Organization recommendations on safe noise decibel levels, which are lower than those in the ordinance.
Commissioner Phil Bane said the ordinance was modeled on language from Benton and White counties, which have multiple wind farms.
“I don’t particularly see any need to revisit it, but that’s just my opinion,” Bane said.
After gathering this week in Linden, No Wind Farm Montgomery County plans more meetings to oppose the projects. A Facebook group has been set up.
Shari McCullough, who lives within three miles of the proposed Sugar Creek turbines, didn’t know the wind farm was coming until she noticed holes had been dug.
She said surrounding residents would not benefit from the turbines, unlike landowners who are paid by the companies when devices are installed on their properties.
“My husband said, why don’t [the companies] just give money back to people who have to look at the thing?” she said.