During 2003, the direction of wind energy took a dramatic step forward with a model wind ordinance produced by wind energy developers and environmental lawyers. It’s been passed around to many counties and contains a partial framework that county boards should consider when determining what issues each county should begin looking at before moving forward with a wind project.
Therein lies the problem. Many counties are overwhelmed with the magnitude of the research needed to prepare for a WECS project and simply use the model wind ordinance as the sum total of what they are willing to do in preparation for an industrial overlay in their county.
David Loomis of the Center of Renewable Energy stated this model ordinance is important to invite WECS projects into your county.
Matt Boss at a 2011 wind conference in Bloomington echoed the same words when he stated the ordinance should let developers know “you are open for business.” In other words, if a county uses this draft ordinance, it will be making a profound statement about its intentions. The county board will be stating the 10-year-old document is still relevant when the turbines have increased in size by 100 percent from around 250 feet in 2003 to today’s models at 500 feet.
Board members will be ignoring the documented effects from noise, flicker, stray current and ultimately reduced property values. They will say that 1,000 feet away from your house should still be sufficient to minimize the effects that are driving people from their homes all across the Midwest.
Vermilion County Board officials clearly heard what the current WECS project has done to many rural residents. Families know their property values and physical health have declined while the dominating effects of these industrial machines have ignored property lines, invaded homes and split neighborhoods.
The payoff comes in the form of Federal Production Tax Credits, lucrative depreciation schedules and state financial incentives for the developer, while taxes and cash increase for local government and hosting property owners.
The reality of this antiquated wind ordinance is that it has found its way into too many county zoning codes and special use agreements. The fallout today is obvious when you listen to families who live within even a 2,000-foot shadow of these industrial machines.
The upcoming financial devastation is guaranteed decades ahead when it is time to remove them and the controlling LLC has just evaporated in a well-timed bankruptcy moments before millions are needed to complete the decommissioning.
Vermilion County board members, this ancient wind ordinance you are hiding behind is nothing more than a shell. Fill it up and make it right. Your people deserve nothing less.
Marshall Newhouse resides in Capron.