Wind turbine opponents pack hearing

About 80 percent who signed petitions were against Champaign County wind farm.

The petitions, provided at a 4½-hour public hearing hosted by the Ohio Power Siting Board Thursday night in Wayne Twp., resulted in 110 signatures in opposition and 28 signatures in favor of the project, according to Steve Irwin of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

About 40 people gave sworn testimony before approximately 200 people who turned out for the hearing. Their testimony will be considered in the siting board’s review of the proposed project next month.

Supporters said the estimated 600 construction jobs, 38 permanent jobs and the $840,000 to $1.26 million in local annual tax revenues the project would create greatly outweigh the costs that opponents brought forth — public safety concerns, the vicinity to their homes and resulting loss of property values and environmental impacts.

Joy Moore, speaking for herself and her husband, John, said: “Big wind simply makes benign statements such as industrial wind farms bring green jobs, lower CO2 emissions, makes U.S. less dependent on foreign oil, money for your schools or will help invigorate your local economy. And all the while, they continue to refuse to acknowledge and/or outright dismiss any claims being made by hundreds of people who are living the nightmare of the true realities of having to live among industrial wind farms.”

“Wind advocates insist that property values are not affected by nearby industrial wind turbines because they assert there will always be a buyer as it is just a matter of taste. This is small comfort for those who already own homes near potential wind farm sites, but whose taste is not so keen on rattling windows, humming walls, flickering lights, 100 plus foot blades spinning overhead, giant metal towers and supply roads, where once there were once trees and deer trails,” she said.

The couple are homeowners in the footprint area of the proposed project and nonparticipants, she said.

Jon Berry, a Champaign County farmer who has agreed to a contract with EverPower Wind Holdings, is in favor of the project and EverPower’s handling of it.

Berry said that there has never been a public death caused a commercial wind turbine among the 150,000 operating worldwide, though that figure was challenged by a later speaker who said a newspaper report from California said there had been 32 deaths.

“On our own operation, farming, we repeatedly put a lot of careful thought and decision making process. We took a serious, hard look at it because it was a long-term lease,” Berry said.

He said he understood the concerns of his neighbors.

“I do ask that the (developers) will use all the tools available to make sure there are minimal impacts to my neighbors, if the turbines are permitted to go on our surrounding farms,” Berry said.

“We take it seriously what we do with our farms, and we didn’t enter these contracts lightly,” Berry said. “One of the reasons we did sign up is that we wanted to make sure we passed the farm on to the next generation. We believe this is a way to preserve the farm land, and we think this will be a good economic tool.”

Berry also represented county farmers as a member of the Champaign County Wind Turbine Study Group through the local farm bureau and as a member of the Champaign Advocates for Renewable Energy, he said.

Officials have said the $55 million project would install more than 50 wind turbines across 13,500 acres between Urbana and Mechanicsburg.

With the first phase of the project, it could mean as many as 100 turbines would be built across six townships in the county.

Thursday’s public testimony will be considered in the siting board’s review of the project when a hearing scheduled for Nov. 8 begins in Columbus. The board will also consider a state staff report finalized last week during the review.

Construction of both phases could begin by next year, if the project is approved.

Jason Daggett, project developer for the project told the Springfield News-Sun earlier that other wind farms have already been sited and built in Ohio, but the initial phase of the Champaign County project was one of the first to go through the siting process.

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