Clinton Wind Open House Sparks Strong Turnout;
E.ON Leaders, Variety of Experts Inform 250-Plus Residents
Over 250 Clinton County residents attended the E.ON Clinton Wind Open House in Frankfort on Thursday evening, September 12, to collect insights from experts who covered a range of topics related to wind energy.
The outpouring of interest reflects strong curiosity about and public support for bringing wind energy to the area. The event at the Edward Jones Community Building on the Clinton County Fairgrounds, was an opportunity for residents to learn generally about wind energy and specifically about E.ON’s proposed wind energy project for Clinton County.
“We’re looking for a signal that the county is open for business,” Eason stated. “We’d love to know what the commissioners would like from us to be able to lift the moratorium and give this project a chance.”
Since February 2017, Clinton County has had a moratorium on wind farms. Eason emphasized at the open house the firm’s desire to have “a clear path forward” to receiving approval for the project. None of Clinton County’s three commissioners was in attendance.
E.ON is proposing 35 to 52 turbines spread across a 39,000-acre (60-square-mile) area in the northeastern part of the county, four miles from Frankfort. The private land that has been identified to host the turbines covers less than 15% of the county. Over a 30-year span, the project would generate $30 million in tax revenue to local governments (about half going to area schools) and $25 million in dependable lease payments to local farmers and landowners.
The funds would also help the county head off a potential budget deficit, as outlined in an independent economic report recently ordered by the Clinton County Commission and Council. Conducted by third-party accounting firm Baker Tilly, the report found that the county’s assessed value is decreasing, expenses are increasing, and that without raising taxes or some other plan to address its financial difficulties, the county could face a $1.1 million general fund deficit in 2023.
The evening began with a dinner catered by Shoup’s Country Foods. Four drawings throughout the event resulted in four people randomly selected to receive $50 Amazon gift cards. In addition, E.ON staff and experts engaged in individual conversations with attendees for nearly an hour and a half after the main presentations concluded.
During the open house, expert consultants consistently cautioned people to be leery of information they come across, including on the Internet, because it can be riddled with inaccuracies and to double-check the veracity of the sources of that information. (For example, an independent, accredited and internationally renowned accounting firm like Baker Tilly would likely be a better source of information on economic forecasting than a Facebook post from a random county resident). That is especially true regarding health impacts of turbines, the impact on surrounding land, energy produced, and other details and factors that have become outdated due to advances in modern turbine technology.
Open House Videos
Overall summary of Clinton Wind Open House (3:32 min.)
Summary of five consultants (4:17 min.)
Complete Clinton Wind Open House (144 min.)
Michael Hankard, an acoustic expert who has analyzed noise on over 40 wind farm projects in 14 states. He provided the context of wind turbine noise in comparison to the types and levels of noise that people experience in day-to-day life.
He noted that, like all mechanical systems, wind turbines produce some sound when they operate. However, the decibel levels are such that people can converse easily, even when they are within close range of a turbine.
The wind turbines would be designed to a maximum level of 45 decibels that could be heard at non-participating residences, which is “consistent with EPA and World Health Organization standards,” he noted, and “at the lower end of the range that projects across the U.S. have been and continue to be permitted and operated.”
Dr. Mark Roberts, who discussed the health and safety considerations involved with turbines, including sound, shadow flicker, ice throw and more.
Pointing out that “one person’s music is another person’s racket,” Roberts said that wind turbines have not been demonstrated scientifically to cause illnesses. “There are people in this room right now, who are annoyed by the thought of wind turbines. There’s no wind turbines here,” said Roberts. “The point being: annoyance is a normal physiological response. We get annoyed every day by something.”
“The fear of the unknown of the noise is really what is driving a lot of the concerns,” he added.
Dr. David Loomis, whose topic was “econometrics” as he informed people about the positive impact that the wind farm would have on the local economy, the county’s tax revenue and the county budget.
The wind turbines would generate over 200 construction jobs and 10 permanent jobs – with commitments to hire locally – and generate $30 million in tax revenue over a 30-year period, supporting schools, hospitals, first responders, road construction and other infrastructure needs.
Mike MaRous, who chronicled the history of wind farms’ impact on property values nearby, as well as his assessment of what would occur in Clinton County.
He reinforced that there is no peer-reviewed evidence that wind turbines lower property values in communities where wind farms exist. Also, a study conducted in 2013 by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed more than 50,000 home sales near 67 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine states. The study was unable to uncover any negative impacts to nearby home property value.
Courtney Dohoney, who discussed the environmental considerations and studies done in advance of responsible project siting. She also discussed what E.ON does to mitigate possible impacts to local land and environments.
A small fraction of citizens in attendance – perhaps one fifth of the overall total – appeared to be opposed to the wind farm. However, said Eason, he was encouraged by their civil tone and respectful behavior.
“We may disagree about whether wind farms would be of great benefit to the community, but I think we can agree that Clinton County would benefit significantly from new economic development,” said Eason. “Even if, as the County Commission says, there are other economic development options for Clinton County, why not include wind and the $250 million project that we are looking to invest here? We hope we can continue our dialogue together and find a way forward to bring hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to Clinton County.”