July 18, 2024

Adams County waits on wind ordinance

CORNING — Adams County Board of Supervisors took no action Monday after about a 90 minute meeting with landowners and residents in regards to proposed changes to the county’s wind turbine ordinance which would allow for expansion of turbines. Supervisors agreed to further review the proposals in consideration with the county planning and zoning committee’s recommendation and public’s comments.

Among the details in the proposed revision, setback distances were emphasized during the discussion. Setbacks are the minimum distance between the wind turbine and neighboring properties. Setbacks were also noted in discussions during storms, which destroyed multiple turbines May 21 in Adams County.

Adams County resident Jeanne Jackson referred to a wind turbine employee safety manual that suggested employees stay at least 3,281 feet from a turbine during a thunderstorm. Those employees are also to wait one hour after a storm has passed before returning to the turbine because of electric-static charging. Jackson said the 3,281 feet was recognized during an Ohio court case.

“So why do non-participating landowners only get 2,000 feet,” she added. “We are asking you to protect us. You will be held accountable.”

Adams County resident Matt Olive asked about the county’s stance on aircraft detection lighting systems. Those are warning lights on turbines are activated only when aircraft is at a specified distance. The system is not intended for commercial airlines.

“The ordinance commission decided not to enforce until after the FAA approved it. ADLS is a proven technology and is with several wind projects. Why not Adams County?” he asked. He added North Dakota and Colorado require the lighting system.

“Naive to underestimate a large, monopolized utility company’s capacity to lobby and influence a government agency like the FAA. Their ability to influence certainly surpasses a small county board of supervisors to lobby,” he said.

Olive claimed MidAmerican Energy, which would utilize the electricity generated from the turbines, doesn’t care about the lighting system.

“The board of supervisors now have a golden opportunity to satisfy the desires of 100% of their constituents, even constituents who want a wind turbine, do not want a flashing red light every night of every year for the rest of their lives. Do what all people want, require ADLS,” he said.

He questioned if the county’s “Allegiance to MidAmerican and Invenergy is stronger than allegiance to your constituents.”

Another comment was about the economic importance wind turbines can have, especially on a rural county like Adams.

Joe Mcsharry said Adams County’s population annually declines. After the 2020 Census, Adams County was the least populated county in the state at about 3,700.

“Demographic change, me included, almost 26% of the county is age 65 and above. Almost 50% is 50 years old and older,” he said.

He added Adams County’s unemployment rate is 1.4 to 1.8%, much lower than the state average and national.

“It’s not from a strong, vibrant industrial base. It’s from the demographic change, the shocking departure of those 35-49, almost 21% have left in last 10 years,” he said.

Mcsharry said if the county’s tax based is not increased, residents will be asked to pay more for county operations.

“The government does not get efficient. It asks for more and more of our money,” he said.

Mcsharry said a proposed expansion of the wind turbines will generate $3 million in tax revenue.

Merlin Bartz, an Invenergy county outreach member, spoke. Invenergy engineers wind turbine projects.

Referring to a meeting in January, Bartz said, “We want to be part of Adams County. We are here to make a positive contribution to economic development.” Batz noted the property tax revenue and construction jobs’ influence. Invenergy will meet with concerned residents to discuss reasonable solutions.

After reviewing the county’s planing and zoning recommendation, Bartz said it puts Invenergy in an impossible position.

“Our proposal is unbuildable, " he said about planning and zoning’s recommendation. “They did not want our project to be built here. They do not want our project to be built here. You as the board of supervisors have to take a different approach.”

Bartz said this is a financial issue.

“We propose you remove the cap or increase the cap to 225,” he said. Adams County has 121 turbines. The proposal was to increase it to 175. Bartz asked that number to be 225 turbines.

He also noted setbacks.

“We propose the non-participant property line setback be 1.1 times turbine height. The non-participant residential setback be moved to 1,500 feet, which we believe make our proposal buildable.”

He added those conditions “would not be the wind some want us to have, which is no wind, but a win for the county.”

John Van Nostrand

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.