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Wind turbine moratorium discussion continues
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Sun, setbacks, shadows,

Wind turbine moratorium discussion continues

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Jim Rocca, of Omniroc, Inc., represented Scout Clean Energy’s

Jim Rocca, of Omniroc, Inc., represented Scout Clean Energy’s interests at the board of supervisors on Tuesday. Photo by Dan Mundt

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors continued their discussion of wind turbines in Crawford County during their Tuesday meeting.

On April 27, the supervisors enacted a temporary moratorium on the construction of new wind turbine towers; the supervisors are gathering information to determine what changes they might make to the county ordinances that regulate the construction of wind turbine towers.

The moratorium will expire on July 1.

The discussion lasted more than an hour; the following is an edited and condensed account.

Supervisor Jean Heiden said he had received a large number of phone calls, texts and emails about the subject.

She said most people were telling her “no more wind turbines in Crawford County.”

Heiden said some people had raised health and environmental concerns; one asked her to continue the moratorium as long as possible.

Jim Rocca, of Omniroc, Inc., who is working for Scout Clean Energy on a proposed wind turbine field south of Westside, asked if the complaints were from residents of Crawford County.

Heiden said some were, but one individual lives in the Ames area.

She said she had also been contacted by one individual who didn’t want to sign an agreement with the company in the area where the new wind tower project’s transmission line runs.

Rocca said he has been here since 2016 signing contracts for wind turbines; 85 to 90 percent of the people he visits sign contracts.

He said the company reimburses the cost of having an attorney look over the proposed contracts – and only one person didn’t sign after taking it to an attorney.

Heiden said the person in the transmission line area said she had concerns about the number of poles, that the land would be taken under eminent domain and that the amount of electricity could be harmful to people and animals.

Michael McGill, Jr., a contract land agent also working with Scout Clean Energy, said that most of the people along the transmission line have signed agreements.

He said the land is not being taken under eminent domain because easements already exist.

“We’re buying easements on property with an existing easement,” Rocca said.

Landowners along the transmission line route get a $500 minimum default payment at the start of the contract, $23,000 per mile at the start of construction, payments per pole and additional payments for guide wires.

McGill said the transmission line already exists and Scout Clean Energy is simply taking out old structures that already exist and replacing them with new structures.

“Corn Belt (Power Coop) was going to do this upgrade anyway,” Rocca said. “They wouldn’t have had to talk to the landowner at all.”

Because Scout Clean Energy will be adding a power line to the new, taller poles, the company has been working with landowners, he said.

Supervisor Kyle Schultz noted that the contracts and the power line had nothing to do with the wind tower moratorium.

The agenda item was a discussion of wind turbines and the board had not yet discussed that subject, he said.

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Supervisor Ty Rosburg said a 1,000 foot setback from a foundation (an occupied dwelling) was questionable – but to make the setback from a property line was even more questionable.

He asked County Assessor Duane Zenk if he knew of any negative health effects from wind turbines.

Zenk said noise level was the only thing he had heard of.

Rocca said Scout Clean Energy aims for 45 decibels from a wind turbine at least one-quarter mile away from a dwelling.

Fifty decibels is the sound of a kitchen refrigerator, he said.

The company’s target is no more than 30 hours per year of shadow/flicker from a wind turbine at a residence, according to Rocca.

The tower setback from a road or a power line is the tip height of a turbine plus 10 percent, so if it falls it won’t land on either, he said.

Rosburg said he had a reservation about the setback being from a foundation because people have activities in their yards and away from their homes.

He said his wife’s garden, where she spends a lot of time in the spring, summer and fall, is not over the foundation of their house.

He said he is for economic development but it was about quality of life.

Rocca said the company works to come to an agreement with owners of dwellings near a turbine – and also will work to avoid satellite television interference.

Rosburg asked if the company’s “good neighbor” agreement was standard in the industry.

Rocca said he has worked for other wind energy companies over the last 13 years and the agreement is similar for other companies.

“When I first got started our contract was about 12 pages long; right now, they’re about 35 to 40 pages,” Rocca said.

Schultz asked what happens if a resident, with a property at 1,300 or 1,500 feet, says they don’t want to sign a good neighbor agreement.

Rocca said the company tries to avoid litigation and would place the tower at 1,500 feet, or more, at the direction of the company’s legal resources.

“So if they don’t sign, you still build it anyway,” Schultz said.

Rocca said the company will still build – but doesn’t want to open itself to liability.

Chairperson Jeri Vogt asked if a setback of 1,500 feet would be fair for the project in Crawford County.

Rocca said it would not be unreasonable – but noted later that it was not a decision for him to make.

Rosburg said he had looked at wind tower ordinances elsewhere in the state; some setbacks are up to a half-mile.

“I’m looking in between there and 1,000 (feet) somewhere,” he said.

Rosburg asked what distance the company uses for determining shadow fall on a property; he noted that it could be unpleasant for people out having a barbecue on a nice day.

Rocca said the company doesn’t use shadow distance; the location of the house, the location of the turbine and where the sun travels is calculated with the objective of keeping the shadow off of a house.

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