During this week’s Clay County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, county supervisors shared information, updates and asked questions regarding concerns raised about wind turbines that were stated at a prior meeting.
Named the Upland Prairie Wind project, the proposed endeavor by Apex noted on its website that the project will produce 300 megawatts of energy, powering 102,000 homes.
The wind energy project would see wind turbines in the northwest part of Clay County, around the townships of Waterford and southern Lone Tree.
Barry Sackett, assistant county attorney, shared that he was currently examining the ordinances of surrounding counties as they relate to wind energy and wind turbines. Sackett said the ordinances in Kossuth, Palo Alto, Dickinson, Osceola and O’Brien counties were being reviewed and compared to Clay County’s current ordinances.
“Ours (ordinances) are in the ballpark (of other counties). ... O’Brien did theirs a long time ago and they kind of got their wind projects. Same with Dickinson, theirs has had a couple things that are different. Kossuth and Palo Alto are more extensive and more recent,” Sackett said.
During the meeting, Sackett shared the public input he’s received has asked for a subjective criteria surrounding any ordinance change regarding setbacks for wind turbines in the area.
“What I’ve heard in the community is that it’s better to have a subjective criteria for setbacks instead of just a number, ... really using decibel levels and flicker as a criteria for setbacks instead of just a hard line, and that’s what Kossuth does,” Sackett said.
Supervisors also spoke with Apex associate land developer and former Iowa Lakes Community College President Harold Prior in regards to issues and concerns brought forth at a prior session. Some of the concerns surrounded ice throw in the winter, noise levels, flicker and an impact on farming methods.
“Your point about the ice throw, ice throws typically only happened years ago when it was smaller turbines; they didn’t have the sophisticated computer regulation they do now, and they were in much colder climates like Alaska, upper peninsula Michigan. Now many times if there’s an ice storm, they don’t even want the turbines running, because there could be too much stress on the blades and that doesn’t even make sense. Today, some of those blades have anti-icing capability so they resist any ice build up anyway,” Prior said.
Prior continued, addressing the topic of noise which was brought up previously by members of the surrounding community.
“I’ve never ever heard noise from a wind turbine that sounded remotely like a tornado or a plane taking off,” Prior said. “A lot of noise complaints you hear in the area stem from two causes, one was some old turbines sold to the schools that were never remanufactured, they were already worn out when the schools bought them. ... The one at Royal is a classic example, and that thing was noisy from day one. (The second is) Clipper turbines, ... (they) gave the industry a bad name because of their gearboxes and gearbox leaks, there were some noises but they’ve been corrected.”
The board also received information regarding a current petition opposing the project. The petition, reported to have 145 Clay County signatures at the time, had been mapped out along the county, showing the majority of signatures coming from the project area.
The Upland Prairie Wind project is tentatively scheduled per Apex’s website to be completed at some point in 2018. Prior said that the project currently exists “within Lone Tree Township, Waterford Township, and Westport in Dickinson County, and potentially just a little bit into Harrison in Osceola.”
Further discussion and any action associated with county ordinances regarding wind energy will be conducted at a future supervisors’ meeting.