Guest Column: Now is the time to let your voice be heard on wind farms

July 6, 2011

Editor’s note: Joan Null was referred to The Rock River Times by the mayor of Lee, Rich Boris, after he and I met at several meetings addressing proposals for industrial wind complexes in Boone and Ogle counties. Boris has been very active opposing complexes in Lee and DeKalb counties. I thank him for his referral, and strongly suggest readers visit the Hulthens’ blog noted below. Very opposed to industrial wind because of the hell his life has become, Dave Hulthen testified at an Ogle County Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on a text amendment to Ogle County’s wind ordinance. His powerpoint presentation, complete with stunning pictures, shows the commonly-touted setbacks of 1,300 to 1,500 feet are completely ineffective. As Vermont has now legislated, setbacks of a mile-and-a-half are less offensive; but even at that distance, many of the drawbacks of industrial wind turbines in agricultural or natural areas still persist. Readers and environmentalists should be very aware of all the proposed industrial wind complexes in Stephenson, Winnebago, Ogle and Boone counties. It’s the beginning of a possibly huge network and costly power grid, complete with eminent domain issues, and just the substantial sections now proposed will ruin our rural quality of life and viewscape for decades to come. — Frank Schier

By Joan Null
Whitley County Concerned Citizens

I am from Whitley County, Ind. (just west of Fort Wayne), and our county has been targeted by a wind developer. We’re doing all we can to put a stop to the project.

After seeing Dave and Stephanie Hulthen’s blog, we wanted to see for ourselves just what it was like to live in the midst of industrial wind turbines. The following is my story about our visit to DeKalb County, and was shared with the residents of our county.

Please go to this link, http://lifewithdekalbturbines.blogspot.com/, and take a really good look at the picture of the house and the wind turbine. Then, scroll down to the entry for Monday, March 14. The visitors they are talking about are eight members of Whitley County Concerned Citizens. I was one of those visitors.

We walked around that yard and stood in front of that porch, and looked out the windows of that house from the inside. It’s a beautiful house, inside and out. And the natural setting is amazing. But, you just can’t begin to imagine being surrounded by 146 turbines — spinning motion every direction that you look when you’re outside, and reflected in every shiny surface inside.

Spinning motion outside the kitchen window where you stand to do dishes, outside the windows of your front door, through the windows of your sun porch, as a backdrop watching your kids play on the swing set, outside the dining room windows, reflected in the TV screen, reflected in the glass of the pictures on the walls, reflected in the glass doors of the kitchen cabinets.

And they are so HUGELY out of proportion to everything else. The two closest ones to their home are 1,400 feet away — and they look like you could just reach out and touch them — they’re enormous. Dave pointed out a line of turbines that were 6 miles away, and some that were 8 miles away. They looked like they were just at the end of the field. (Note: the wind ordinance that the Plan Commission proposed for Whitley County last October called for a 1,200-foot setback).

Dave and Stephanie Hulthen are a very nice young couple in their mid 30s, living in their dream home. They have four young children, and they live directly across the road from the farm where Dave grew up, and Dave’s parents still live. Dave makes beautiful custom cabinets and furniture in his shop at home.

Their focus is “people need to know the truth about what it’s really like to live with turbines, and the wind companies don’t tell the truth.” Dave has a degree in physics, so he really understands a lot about how the whole system works. They are all about proper setbacks. Ironically, when Dave wanted to build his cabinet shop (very nice metal building), their county code said the shop had to be “set back” from the road at least as far as the front of his house “in order to be aesthetically pleasing.” No joke!

Dave drove us around through the wind farm, telling us the stories of various families who live there. Then, he drove to the edge of the wind farm, so that there were no turbines in view in front of us. He called our attention to the fact that we were looking at “normal” surroundings — farms and houses. Then, he said, “now I’m going to turn the vehicle around,” and suddenly you’re assaulted with this view of huge, spinning sticks towering over farmland and houses. The feeling is gut-wrenching. Before I went, I honestly thought that looking at them wouldn’t be all that bad. I was more concerned about other issues. But, I have to admit that looking at them and being surrounded by them affected me more than I thought it would. I can’t imagine our beautiful countryside looking like an industrial wasteland; and not just for a short time … but for the next 30-40 years.

There was also a constant drone of noise — and the generators weren’t even operating — they weren’t producing electricity that day. Also, there was the “whoosh, whoosh” of the blades. The shadow flicker varies from house to house depending on the distance and directional relationship between the house, the turbines and the sun. For Dave and Stephanie, the shadow flicker is like a disco strobe light at sunrise, lasting 45 minutes, from May through September.

They said some days are so bad, so noisy, and some nights so sleepless, they look at each other and say, “put the FOR SALE sign in the yard.” And then they remember, “Oh, yeah — nobody will buy our house, we’re in the middle of 146 turbines.”

Their dream has been shattered by turbines.

If you’ve not made the trip to a wind farm, and talked to those who live among the turbines — please do. The key is talking to people, seeing from their perspective, hearing directly from them how daily life has been affected by the turbines. You won’t get the complete picture just by driving down the road and looking at them.

And please write to your county commissioners. Let them know of your concerns. County officials have told us they need to hear from people in all areas of the county, not just in Washington, Jefferson and Cleveland townships. Please share this information with anyone you know in Whitley County. This is a countywide ordinance that is being considered, and the next phase of the wind farm may just target your part of the county. The time to let your voice be heard is now.

From the July 6-12, 2011, issue

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