Discussion yesterday morning at the Morgan County Commissioners meeting about an incorrect phone number led to a larger discussion about Ørsted not getting the Aircraft Detection Lighting System on the Lincoln Land Wind project updated and fixed.
Joana Ramsey, an Alexander resident, spoke during public comment Tuesday morning letting the Morgan County Commissioners know that the telephone number for the Lincoln Land Wind complaint line listed on the county’s website was incorrect and led to a fax number. Ramsey pointed out that a local news source actually had the correct number listed in an article back in March when the county’s website was updated with information about the wind project.
The conversation led to Ramsey asking the commissioners about a timeline on when and if the ADLS system would shut the blinking red lights off at night: “The last report, I think, was March 7th or March 21st from articles about Dusty [Douglas] talking about maybe speaking with Ørsted, and we’ve heard nothing. I have heard that the radar tower is not working. I know this is totally rumor. I can’t drive down my farm all the time to check it out, but where are we with that?”
Commissioner Chair Brad Zeller says that he understands the perception in the county is that the commissioners have not been pressing Ørsted to get the issue fixed, but he says that’s the opposite of what’s actually going on: “I understand the perception. I understand what the county feels and people out there feel. I understand it deeply. That was the one issue that we’ve got to keep going back to. This [project] would have never gotten through this county board if that issue wouldn’t have been in our ordinance to get rid of the light pollution in the evenings. That was a major sticking point, and we have pounded that into these people that this has to be completed. It is Murphy’s Law what is going on with these lights that at every corner something has happened.”
Zeller went on to explain that the original consultant that worked with Apex Clean Energy left the project when Apex sold the project and left no blueprints or information behind. Consultants had to be hired for the project, first by Ares Management Corporation who then sold to Ørsted in November 2021 shortly after the wind farm went online.
Zeller also said that Apex installed incompatible modules in the turbine towers when they were originally built. The modules would not work with the ADLS control board and had to be taken out and are currently on back order to be replaced by Ørsted to get the ADLS system online and the lights shut off.
Zeller went on to say that he was no longer going to offer timelines on the project because each of the previous timelines on the project have been missed, making the county look like they weren’t doing their job.
Ramsey asked why the project was allowed to start in the first place, and when would the county step in to fix the problem: “So when do we hold this company accountable? At what point in time do we say ‘That’s enough’ and there is a fine or something that’s going on? I haven’t heard anything about it. At some point you have to do that, right?”
Zeller agreed and said that the county was on its way to filing paperwork either for a fine or some kind of lien on the project’s permit to get Ørsted into compliance. However, Zeller says the county waited to do that after they were made aware of the logistical issues with the incompatible modules and the ongoing problems with the placement of the radar station. The location of the radar station was originally protested by the Osage Native American Nation about being placed on a burial ground. After an archeological study was completed late last year, the station was allowed to proceed.
Zeller and Commissioner Mike Wankel says the issues with the wind farm are brought to them almost daily and getting the lights shut off at night in the county is one of their top priorities.