Our view: Wind turbine ordinance should protect, respect property rights

Wind turbines harvest air currents in Waterman in this January 2017 file photo.

Where a person lives probably has a lot of influence on how they feel about a wind farm proposed for northwestern DeKalb County.

Those who stand to profit from leasing ground for wind turbines to San Diego-based EDF Renewables probably love the idea. Those who are far enough away that the towers will be mostly out of sight – the majority of people – might consider it an environmentally friendly way of generating power that will make a contribution to the local economy and tax base.

However, there are some people who will gain little from the project, yet still face potential light and noise pollution, along with clutter on the rural landscape. The turbines would be located in the northwest part of the county, bounded by Twombly Road to the south, First Street to the east, Base Line Road to the north and the Ogle County line to the west.

Those are the people the County Board must work to protect while still respecting the rights of landowners to put their property to its best and most productive use. Board members are formulating an ordinance to regulate wind energy and we hope they fairly strike this balance.

There is room for wind-power generation in DeKalb County. There have been more than 120 turbines in southwestern DeKalb County for almost a decade. A new project is proposed for northwest DeKalb County.

In the new ordinance, we would like to see stringent requirements on light pollution. The disruption of blinking red lights must be minimized by aircraft-activated systems or other means to reduce nuisance light.

“Shadow flicker” caused by the rotating blades blocking the sun must be minimal or eliminated for residents.

The county has been through the wind energy approval process before and should have a good idea of the issues that will arise. Rural roads may have to be improved to handle heavy, oversize loads that would be trucked in to build the towers. Dust and construction noise will have to be controlled. Funds must be set aside for decommissioning the towers.

EDF Renewables should be expected to improve roads and guarantee property values of nearby residents.

The last wind energy project approved by the County Board brought more than 120 turbines to four townships in southwestern DeKalb County. In that project, the turbines were about 400 feet tall from the tip of the blade at its apex to the ground. The turbines were required to have a 1,400-foot setback from any residence – about 3½ times the “tip height.”

EDF Renewables is asking for the same setback requirement for its turbines, which could be about 100 feet taller than those to the south.

This setback requirement seems to be a reasonable standard that can protect quality of life for residents while allowing landowners to maximize the use of their property.

That should be the top priority for the County Board as it works to create an ordinance for this wind project and any that will come after.