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Wind farm clears yet another hurdle

Staff writer

This time, it was blade-flung ice hunks.

The latest in a series of obstacles presented to Rex Savage and the Windbourne Energy Doyle Creek wind farm was that of safety concerns. Commissioners on Monday approved a resolution allowing landowners to approve turbine construction nearer to their homes than the regulations previously allowed.

Bob Gayle and Tom Britain attended the meeting in opposition of the resolution, which was submitted by Tonya Richards as approved by the planning and zoning board.

Commissioners approved the new resolution after Gayle presented a researched report opposing the change.

The previous iteration of the rule stated turbines could be constructed no closer than a quarter mile (1,320 feet) away from residences, though they could be constructed at a distance equal to the height of the turbine plus 50 feet from nearby roads.

The new resolution applied the height-plus-50-feet rule to residences under the lease of the wind farm, with the stipulation that the quarter-mile rule still applies to residences of people not on the lease of the wind farm.

Richards said the planning and zoning board felt the new resolution was in line with the intent of the old law.

Gayle rebuked this point, and said in addition to a tower toppling over on top of a building, other, more likely scenarios should be factored in, such as a blade flying off a turbine or large patches of ice from the turbines flying off at high speeds.

Commission Chairman Dan Holub was visibly frustrated by Gayle’s appeal, and referenced multiple efforts made to impede the wind farm’s progress.

“First of all, you guys seem to have a real problem with us not vetting the company,” Holub said. “It comes up in every conversation we’ve had for two years. It is not our job.”

“The first discussion against this was prairie chickens,” Holub said.

“I did not speak in that meeting,” Gayle replied.

“Then it was grass,” Holub continued. “Now we’re worried about getting it too close, 1,320 feet, fine. Maybe it’d be better at 5,000 feet.”

“I’m not asking for an increase, I’m just saying keep that law the way it is,” Gayle said.

Gayle told commissioners to consider that while he respects a landowner’s right to assume risk for himself, he asked commissioners to consider mail carriers, construction workers, visitors, and others who may be on the property.

Savage said the ice would not be a risk because most turbines are equipped with technology that shuts them off when ice forms. He also scoffed at the likelihood of a blade being thrown off a turbine, given the safety measures in place to prevent such an instance.

A couple other supporters of the wind farm, including James Olsen, whose property’s proposed proximity to a turbine prompted the resolution to change the regulation, supported Savage.

“I’ve worked all my life for my land,” Clifford Hett said. “I’d like to use it as I see fit.”

“I drive down the highway, that’s taking more of a chance than this,” Olsen said. “You’re gonna tell me I can’t cut trees out of a skid loader here pretty soon too? That’s what gets me, it’s like, c’mon, we’ve gotta have some rights.”

Last modified March 18, 2015

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