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Give wind farm plan a fair hearing, Harv Koplo’s Op-Ed to the Illinois State Journal-Register

Harv Koplo is a Board member of Sustainable Springfield This “In My View” piece appeared in the April 10th edition of the SJ-R

While it is understandable that people would be afraid of new ideas and change in general, especially if it might impact their own neighborhood and property value, people need to be objective when investigating and developing opinions about new technologies. Discussions about the wind farm project soon to be proposed to Sangamon County should be based on fact and rational critical thinking.

I attended both the Sangamon County informational meeting on Jan. 11 and Chris Nickell’s Sustainable Springfield presentation on March 2. There were many more folks with a positive attitude about local wind farms at the Sangamon County meeting than was reported. At the beginning, the county made it clear that this was an informational meeting only, not a public hearing. They asked folks not to comment on the topic, but only to speak if they had questions for the board. Most of us in favor of wind farms respected their wishes. Unfortunately, the opponents of wind farms signed up to rant about the topic instead of asking legitimate questions as requested.

Most of the fears expressed at the meeting were proven to be unfounded. After listening to members of the county board, I was very impressed with the research and work that went into formulating their wind turbine regulations. Most of the regulations produced are in line with the best regulations elsewhere and the public is very well protected — they have covered every angle imaginable. Wind farm developers spend much time and money proving that they are responsible and ensuring that what they develop is in the best interest of the citizens of Sangamon County before they are allowed to continue. Money is placed in escrow to ensure that the land would be reclaimed should a company leave the area or for turbine decommissioning. The considerable investment would ensure their presence, especially after the 10-year payback period when they finally make a profit. The required 1,200-foot setback from nonparticipants makes it the most conservative set of zoning regulations in Illinois.

I learned much listening to Chris Nickell’s presentation and I’m sorry opponents of the project did not avail themselves of the opportunity to investigate his perspective. The company he represents, American Wind Energy, plans to utilize some of the newest technology available, placing 200, 2-megawatt turbines west of Springfield. This would produce about the same amount of electricity as CWLP generates, with no CO2 emissions. It would also produce about $4 million annually in county taxes — 60 percent of which would go to school systems in New Berlin, Pleasant Plains, Chatham, Auburn and Waverly. Many jobs would also be produced in this area.

The company has an interesting way of leasing land for the turbines. Every landowner who signs up will annually receive approximately $100 per acre whether a turbine resides on their property of not. Turbine placement is determined after setbacks from all houses, towns and nonsigning landowners are configured. Those ending up with turbines on their property can receive annual rent of as much as $4,000 per turbine on top of the acreage fee, while still continuing to farm their land.

Other objections to wind farms were addressed by Nickell. Some fear losing control of their land; however, they are the ones who determine the contract they sign with the company and where roads are placed for turbine access. There is little noise with modern turbines and the county regulations include a noise threshold that would force a shut down of a turbine. Shadow flicker is also covered in the regulations and modern turbines can be programmed to shut down during times of the day if shadows fall on a house. It is in the company’s best interest to locate turbines where these problems would not occur so that they get maximum production out of their investment.

Some folks complain about the view, but anyone driving between Lincoln and Peoria can only marvel at the peaceful viewscape of the turbines there. People travel to Holland to see their windmills and I find these make an awesome sight as well. The turbines planned for Sangamon County by American Wind Energy are manufactured in America and the electricity produced will stay in America. The green jobs produced to manufacture, install and maintain the turbines employ people here in America and much of that money will stay in our county.

Although change comes hard for some folks, the downturn in our economy and migration of jobs out of this area decree that change is necessary if people want to uphold their way of life here in the heartland. I hope the majority of people in Sangamon County support their county board in approving valid, responsible wind farm development that will add to everyone’s quality of life in our area. Please write or call your county representative and let them know that you favor this kind of progress.

Harv Koplo is on the board of Sustainable Springfield Inc. and works with the Earth Springfield Coalition. His sustainably built home includes solar panels and other green technologies new to Sangamon County.

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