I am a Fulton County landowner who had the opportunity to sign a lease for wind turbines and said, “No.” Quietly, at first, but with more conviction as time went on. Ultimately, it is up to your community and county officials to decide whether or not to host industrial wind turbines. No one can make that choice for you, but I want to share with you some of our experiences over the past 12 months with the same wind company planning a project in Pulaski and Jasper Counties.
The first reservations came during a meeting last spring with the wind company at our family’s Fulton County farm (located about three miles east of Pulaski County). The reps jovially said our neighbors to the south were signing and so we might as well, too, because we would be looking at wind turbines, anyway. We expressed concern about our private airport because wind turbines would ruin the approaches to our runway. When it was clear we had little interest in their offer, the parting shot was that we should sign the wind lease because as a private airport we have no FAA protection from obstructions. We quickly decided we weren’t signing, not for any amount of money.
A few days later my mom stopped by our long-time neighbor and friends’ home to talk about the wind project. As it turns out they had not signed and were upset to find out the wind company was using their name to promote the project. Later a different neighbor said that wind reps told him that we were supportive of the wind project! I’ve learned this is a common practice of wind companies. You can be sure the wind company is counting on you NOT talking to your neighbors. In this area, neighbors look out for their neighbors. Talk to your friends about the wind project and warn them about the predatory practices of this company. Don’t leave it up to the wind rep to speak to your neighbors for you.
I don’t know if the wind company has a signed power purchase agreement yet (buyer for the electricity) for the project here, but the project director told us the power for the Fulton County project was being sold to New Jersey. It was not going to lower our utility bills. We heard from Tipton County residents living in Wildcat Wind Farm that their bills actually went up after the wind project was built (perhaps to pay for the transmission lines and infrastructure built?). Also, their property taxes have not decreased, they have increased.
Another concern is this company’s unwillingness to share safety information regarding the wind turbines they want to place near homes. According to the Caithness Wind Farm Accident Database, pieces of wind turbine blade have been thrown over 4,000 feet and can go through roofs and walls. I learned the unsafe evacuation zone around a wind turbine is 1,640 feet for a turbine less than half the size of the turbines being installed. Based on our ordinance and yours, this would certainly put homes in the unsafe evacuation zone if there is a malfunction. Because of this, I asked the the project director in a public meeting if we could have a copy of the safety manual for the wind turbines they were planning to install. This long-time wind rep’s response was that he has never seen a safety manual for a wind turbine. Fulton County officials asked the same rep to provide the safety manual so that county officials could ensure homes would not be located in the unsafe evacuation zone. Without that information, how can the safety of residents be ensured? The company’s reply was that the manufacturer does not let the public see that information. Everything mechanical has a safety manual, so what are they hiding? It can be written in your county’s wind ordinance that the company must provide an unredacted copy of the operation safety manual for the wind turbines being installed before a permit will be approved.
Fulton County Commissioners voting on the ordinance decided to ban the use of industrial wind turbines in Fulton County and on January 18th, it became law. Three weeks later, the wind company filed with the FAA for aeronautical studies for 436 wind turbines in Fulton, Cass, and Miami, including two on my family’s land in Fulton County. I called an official with the Indiana Department of Transportation to learn more about the studies. Guess who pays for these expensive aeronautical studies requested of our government by this foreign-owned wind company? You, me: the American taxpayer foots the bill! The audacity of this company really is something!
Most people, when given the choice, do not want to live in a wind farm. Please demand a property value guarantee for your residents so that if they want to leave, they can. According to the “Wind Turbine Impact Study,” by Appraisal Group One in Wisconsin, residential properties 1-5 acres bordering or in close proximity to a wind turbine had property value decreases with a 33% to 43% drop in property value. Illinois appraiser Michael McCann, who testifies on wind farm property devaluation, says real estate sale data typically reveals a range of 25% to approximately 40% of value loss. The wind company says their project will not negatively impact home values. If that is true, then they will offer every resident living within two miles of the wind farm a property value guarantee. That way if residents decide they can’t live with the negative effects of the wind farm and want to sell their homes but the market value has dropped, the wind company will make up the difference. This can be written into your county’s ordinance.
Some will say we must do our part to save the world by erecting industrial wind turbines. Industrial wind energy systems do not decrease CO2 emissions. It does little to decrease global warming because wind is so unpredictable that fossil fuel plants must ramp up to back up the turbines because wind is a fickle resource. Fossil fueled plants have to stay online to prevent black or brown-outs when the wind is not blowing at a sufficient speed. Wind energy is also environmentally irresponsible as it fragments wildlife habitat, can cause soil erosion and can even impact our groundwater.
Furthermore, science from around the world has proven that the noise and infrasound produced by the turbines proposed are more than an annoyance; it has been declared by the World Health Organization as an adverse health effect. Further numerous studies have found that up to 30-40% of people are sensitive to this kind of modulating noise and that people do not become desensitized to this noise. In fact, they become more sensitive over time and longer range adverse health effects arise.
Just as Marshall County, with a ban on industrial wind turbines, had their eyes on neighboring Fulton County as we battled wind development, Fulton County’s eyes are on you. We are watching as your officials sift through mountains of data and weigh the detriments of wind energy against the lure of money promised to the county — a sum they will see only a fraction of when the wind company demands a huge tax abatement. I attended the latest Pulaski Plan Commission meeting. Pulaski officials are being asked to hire the accounting firm Umbaugh and Associates to determine how much money the county might receive with this project. At a public meeting in Fulton County, Umbaugh and Associates presented the numbers for the project. We learned the savings for the average homeowner was about $150 a year on their property taxes; about the equivalent of a couple of tanks of gas for all of the trouble wind turbines can cause homeowners forced to live near them. This company has left behind problems for communities including noise, shadow flicker, sediments in water wells, oil-leaking turbines, excessive bird and bat kills, habitat fragmentation, poorly repaired roads, broken friendships and divided families. You will have to decide if it is all worth it or not.
Lynn Plummer-Studebaker, M.Ed.
Fulton County landowner