Library from Nebraska
Several members of the Lancaster County Board have expressed support for strengthening wind-energy regulations beyond a current proposal.
Several Lancaster County commissioners said Tuesday they were concerned the Planning Commission’s recommendations don’t go far enough to protect landowners who aren’t planning to lease their land to wind-energy companies. ...Scott Holmes, environmental health manager for the Health Department, said wind turbine noise can cause physiological reactions, including loss of sleep and increased heart rates and blood pressure.
The Butler County Board of Supervisors went on the record Monday in regard to recent regulations that six townships passed regarding wind energy development. County Attorney Julie Reiter, who advised the board on the issue, said it was not a question of whether the County Board supported or opposed wind energy development.
DAVID CITY — The Butler County Board of Supervisors went on the record Monday in regard to recent regulations passed by six townships to restrict wind farm development.
Meanwhile, at least two Lancaster County commissioners said they are concerned proposed wind energy regulations they are to consider later this month won’t do enough to protect landowners from being negatively affected by wind turbines.
Concerns ranging from excessive noise to the well-being of turkey vultures were presented to Gage officials during a special hearing on wind turbines last week. The county is evaluating its wind energy regulations following a proposal from Volkswind USA last fall. The proposed wind farm would be primarily in Lancaster County but occupy about 4,000 acres in Gage County. The request was put on hold as both counties addressed concerns regarding wind turbines.
Over the past two weeks, voters in six Butler County townships overwhelmingly approved regulations for wind energy development, but whether the restrictions will stand remains to be seen. On Monday, Butler County Attorney Julie Reiter said she doesn't think the townships have the authority to enforce regulations that amount to zoning.
The regulations were drawn up by the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers, a group of concerned citizens that was organized when wind development plans became known last spring. Lincoln attorney Greg Barton, who was advising four of townships as well as the Wind Watchers, countered Levy’s argument, stating that state law does not preclude townships from taking action regarding their property and access to roads. Both agreed that the issue wouldn’t be settled at the township level meetings.
Drawn up by the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers, a group of concerned citizens, the regulations were proposed as safety rules. The first banned high voltage power lines under township roads. The second placed setbacks of 1,640 feet from wind turbines to the nearest township road and non-participating property. The second set of rules also placed lower overnight noise limits, to be determined by a study, on the turbines.
In Brainard, loud cheers accompanied the announcement of votes of 114-3, 114-1 and 113-1 for the three different decisions. Two regulations have been passed: The first bans the placement of high voltage power lines under township property. The other places a 1,640 setback requirement from any property not associated with the wind farm development and also from township roads, and it also limits the noise created by the turbines during overnight hours.
Presently wind energy developers are free to build wind farms in Nebraska after going through the Power Review Board process. The push for wind tax credits is powered by greed and fueled by money from special interest lobbyists (the lobbyist cartoon under the wind-tax editorial was very apt). Developers want the taxpayers, through tax credits, to pay for 25 percent of the estimated $2.5 million cost of each wind turbine, thus guaranteeing the investors an immediate profit.
Jan BBostelman, who described her 35 years of experience as an engineer in the power industry, said the safety regulations need to be based on the worst case scenarios of turbine failures. Dan Schmid of Dwight spoke in support of the regulations. He said European countries are much more experienced in wind development and they have larger setback distances. Germany, for example, is creating setbacks of 1,000 meters, about double the distance set in the local regulations.
By a 3-1 margin, township voters approved limitations on the development of turbines within the township that surrounds David City on the north, east and south sides. ...Residents also voted 33-11 to require 1,640-foot setbacks between the turbines and the nearest township road and any nearby property whose owner is not part of the development. The regulation also placed limits on the noise created by turbines during overnight hours.
A home should be an owner’s castle and free from intruders, especially when that unwanted guest comes as a result of self-serving government interests. Crony capitalism in the Nebraska Legislature is threatening the health, security, and property rights of many Nebraskans. Policymakers must stop prioritizing these out-of-state wind developers at the expense of taxpayers and property owners.
Scott Holmes, manager of the environmental health division of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, cited research showing that the nature of wind turbine noise makes it more annoying than noise from aircraft, trains or traffic on roads. The rotation of the big blades produces a swoosh, thump and silence. The uneven, pulsating sounds repeatedly capture attention and are difficult to ignore, one researcher wrote. The circumstances call for the Lancaster County Board to give considerable weight to the pleas of rural homeowners as it enacts regulations on wind turbines.
Opponents argued that the state shouldn't subsidize wind energy and contended the bill would cut into state revenue by allowing wind farms to sell their tax credits to other profit-making businesses to generate cash. Some criticized the turbines as an eyesore in rural areas and complain about the whooshing and thumping noises made by the spinning blades.
On Wednesday night, the nine members of the Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed rules on a 5-4 vote, after rolling back sound limits and doing away with a daily limit on the amount of time flickering shadows cast by turbine blades can pass over neighboring houses. ...The move disappointed Hallam and Cortland area property owners. They had wanted the noise limits to remain at 40 decibels in the day and 37 at night, numbers that were recommended by the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department.
The noise turbines make cannot be compared to other sounds, like a stream or the hum of a refrigerator, which also are around 40 decibels. “It’s more annoying to people than other sounds at the same levels,” he said. It’s unique. Multiple turbines, even if in sync, combine to make a modulating pulsing swoosh and thump, plus a whirring sound, a hum from the transformer substation and infrasound below human hearing.
In the last three years, electricity generated by wind in Nebraska has more than doubled. And with the Environmental Protection Agency requiring big cuts in future carbon emissions from power plants, even more wind power could be in the state’s future.
Accepting these mitigation measures without fully understanding their effectiveness could place the lives and property of Nebraskans at risk.