Library from Nebraska
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.
The proposed regulations address noise and health issues from wind turbines, as well as setback requirements from homes and property, lighting and decommissioning of towers. Stephen Henrichsen, the department's development review manager, said comments will be reviewed before final regulations are presented to the Planning Commission for a public hearing in August. No date has been set.
The NextEra Energy Resources team said it is still trying to determine whether 33,000 acres in Butler and Saunders counties are suitable for its Jubilee wind energy project.
Lancaster County is expected to adopt new wind farm regulations restrictive enough they may prevent future developments, and Gage County will likely follow suit. The County Board of Supervisors discussed regulations at its regular meeting this week. The proposed changes are the result of joint meetings with Lancaster County officials first held in March.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Omaha office has opened an investigation into the report of a worker's death, Wednesday, May 27th. The 40-year-old temporary worker was working for Wanzek Construction, Inc., which is constructing the Prairie Breeze Wind Energy Center for Invenergy near Elgin, Nebraska.
"Our concern is that they're trying to place them quite close to our homes and we were worried about the sound that's emitted by them," Cindy Chapman said. She is a member of a coalition against Volkswind. Current zoning laws say the turbines must at least 1000 ft away from the property line of any home not involved in the project. It also requires they not exceed noise level of 35 decibels.
Proposed noise rules being drafted to regulate commercial wind turbines in Lancaster County are so restrictive they would effectively prevent wind projects being developed here, according to a Portland, Oregon-based company that wants to develop a 50-turbine farm in Lancaster and Gage counties.
But Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, who led the opposition to the bill, said Nebraska doesn’t need additional energy and argued that wind farm development would harm the state’s public power system.
The Legislature appeared poised Monday to place a $75 million limit on enhanced state tax credits designed to promote development of new wind energy projects in Nebraska, but the ultimate fate of the bill remained in doubt.
But opponents questioned whether the state would see a direct benefit from such projects. Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus criticized the proposed use of transferable tax credits for wind farms. The transferable credits could be sold other companies at a discount, allowing the wind company to generate cash while the purchasing company lowers its tax liability. Schumacher submitted an amendment that would allow companies to sell their tax credits at only a maximum 3 percent discount.
The Platte County Board of Supervisors has yet to give its support to a wind farm project that is already underway south of Creston. On Tuesday, the board tabled a resolution of support and county road agreement with Bluestem Energy Solutions.
A group fighting the development of a 110-turbine wind farm was organized April 14 with 40 members. Early this week, the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers counted more than 100 area landowners and residents who hope they can halt the Jubilee Wind Farm Project proposed by NEXTera Energy, LLC, before it gets a foothold, said John Stanner, one of the organizers.
Under these low wind speeds, a turbine creates sort of a “woosh.” And it seems like the wooshes will never end. “When the wind is in the west, we don’t hear it,” he said, referring to the turbine east of his farmstead. When the wind is blowing out of the east or south, “It’s almost like when you’ve got cars going by.”
A renewable energy tax credit bill has advanced out of a legislative committee and is on it's way to the floor for debate.
To further educate the audience, organizers brought in Randy Saathoff, a livestock farmer, who lives in Steele Flats, the NextEra wind turbine project in Johnson and Gage counties. Saathoff, who did not sign a contract, lives a half mile away from the closest one. Most of what Saathoff said to the audience painted wind turbines in a grim light. He said the power is shut off without warning, sometimes for three hours, and NextEra maintenance employees do not let property owners know in advance when they will be on their land. “They drove across the bean field and left trash everywhere. They come and go whenever they want on your property. ...They’ll tell you what they want you to hear to get you to sign,” he said.
“There was an environmental expert at the meeting. We work closely with fish and wildlife, and game and parks,” Sullivan said. Bostelman said he asked about the environmental impact concerning eagles and was told by one NextEra representative, the setback was three to four miles, but another one told him it was 500 feet.
Stephanie Hamel, who lives near Rosemont and would have a turbine tower within 1,500 feet of her home, said she is getting nothing from NextEra but will live with the impacts of its project for the next 30 years or more. “I ask you to put yourself in my situation and ask yourself honestly what you would do,” Hamel said, addressing the commissioners. “Lonnie said he wouldn’t want to live in the project area. Would you guys?”
Setback requirements, shadow flicker, ice thaw and health issues were all concerns raised during the first in a series of meetings concerning wind farm regulations.
"It's going through the Sandhills and crossing several rivers that have a tremendous amount of fish and wildlife resources," said Bob Harms, a Wildlife Service biologist based in Grand Island. "It's unfragmented grasslands. It's a huge resource for migratory birds and threatened and endangered species." Some of the highest populations of the endangered American burying beetle in the U.S. are found along the route as well, he said.