April 01, 2023

Supervisors extend pause on turbine project applications

After hearing additional safety-related information regarding wind turbines that should be further considered in Union County’s ordinance according to those speaking, Union County Board of Supervisors Monday evening unanimously approved extending its abeyance on commercial energy applications from April 10 to Dec. 10.

An abeyance is a suspension.

The emphasis of safety provided by Francine Ide and Roger Vicker was setbacks, the distance between the wind turbine and a structure, like a home. The two would like the ordinance to be changed to property lines. The two were representing Protect our Land’s Future, a grassroots organization preserving and protecting Union County land.

“I could probably say everyone in this room if you live on a farm or acreage you often times are utilizing the outdoors more than the inside,” she said to a packed Union County courtroo

m. “You’re mowing hay. You’re fixing fence. You’re checking cattle. You’re riding horses. You’re fishing in your ponds. Your kids are outside playing,” Ide said. “They should be from the property line instead of the residence for that exact purpose... People should have the right to safely use any and all of their property at any time.”

Late last year, supervisors were informed by the same two of a wind-turbine related company’s meetings with landowners, specifically in southern parts of the county for additional turbines to be installed. Union County has had 34 turbines since 2020, all generally located in the northwest corner.

The county’s ordinance states at least 1,500 feet must be between a turbine and a structure. Ide and Vicker said studies and cases in other states show the distance must be farther.

Vicker said wind turbines are a constant threat of attracting lightning during storms and can be constantly hit by lightning.

“Turbines can pull lightning from a thunder storm 10 kilometers away,” he said. Ide added a turbine’s blade can attract lightning more than a static object.

“None of us know the ins and outs, mechanically, of a wind turbines. We are not the professional to know the correct safety setback,” Ide said.

With additional research, Ide found information from a case in Ohio regarding a manufacturer of turbines.

“They say there are life threatening injures due to lightning strikes,” she said. The information provided regulations for people to be 3,281 feet from a turbine during a storm and an hour after the storm has passed.

“If they say it’s not safe for them we know without a doubt it’s not safe for us,” Ide said.

Vicker said fires on turbines are another safety factor and Union County emergency crews have not been trained on how to handle fires and other tower emergencies. Components of the nacelle, the part of the turbine where the electricity is generated, is susceptible to fires.

“MidAmerican has failed to follow through on their promise to provide that training and documentation and procedures. And we’ve been operating for two years,” he said. “There are other reasons we can’t trust the industry.”

Ide said the International Association of Fire Safety Science studied 200,000 plus turbines around the world. “Fires are underreported 10 times,” she said.

“For every fire there are 10 you don’t hear about it,” Vicker said. He added a fire on a turbine near Williamsburg, in eastern Iowa, was reported.

Turbine blades also create potential hazards as centrifugal force has thrown ice about a half mile. Vicker knows of ice found on roads and also causing property damage. Ide said the length of ice ranges from the length of a riding lawn mower to two cars. Ide said one farmer has been hit by ice thrown from a turbine blade. Another person has had vehicle damage from ice.

“There was no other source,” she said.

Chad Ide said a person driving in January through the wind turbines between Adams and Union counties claimed thrown ice was found in the roads.

“There are concerns for me with setbacks from the roadway also from the property line so you’re not put in danger on your own property,” he said.

Supervisor Dennis Brown made the motion to extend the abeyance to Oct. 10 to allow for additional research for any ordinance changes. Chad said that may not be an ideal time for farmers to continue discussions knowing harvest season. Brown then suggested January 2024, but Supervisor Dennis Hopkins does not want to begin fiscal year budget work at the same time the abeyance ends. December was the agreed date. In January, after a similar meeting, supervisors approved a three-month abeyance to April.

“It’s not saying no wind turbines in Union County. It’s saying we are going to hold off on accepting or permitting any new application until we can adequately look into ordinance and see if setbacks need to be changed for safety,” Chad said. Supervisors were provided a petition of 963 names of people in support of the abeyance and further research of the county’s ordinance.

Abeyances can end earlier than the approved date.

In other supervisor news...

Earlier in the day, supervisors started their scheduled meeting. Clarke County Engineer Christian Boehmer, who is overseeing Union County projects, informed supervisors of agreements made with Ringgold County to replace a bridge. The bridge is about five miles east of U.S. Highway 169 along the Ringgold-Union County Road near Squirrel Avenue.

Because of the location of the bridge, both counties reached agreements with replacing the 95-feet long bridge. Estimated cost is $435,000 and Union County will pay half. A work schedule has not been determined. Union County officials noted the popularity of the road.

Bids are scheduled to be open April 3 for bridge work on Cherry Street about two miles south of the Creston airport.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.