Wind energy experts are warning about potential health risks to wind turbine neighbors.
The potential of wind farms in Morgan County is a growing topic of local conversation, with many speaking both in favor and with some reservations about the proposed Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS), commonly known as wind turbines or windmills.
The Ad Hoc Citizen’s Committee for Property Rights and Morgan County Wind Watch are two groups of concerned local residents. These groups partnered to bring two speakers to Jacksonville last night. The two speakers were Ted Hartke and Kevon Martis.
Martis is the founder of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition, a non-for-profit that works to protect utility ratepayers from economic harm and works against rural zoning abuse.
Martis details the potential for wind turbine-related health concerns in Morgan County.
“A World Health Organization study in 2009 showed that long-term, adverse health effects begin to regularly appear in humans when soundwaves approach 40 to 45 decibels. At this moment, a maximum of 48 decibels is allowed by the State of Illinois. IICC research has shown that turbines that are about 500 feet tall can produce levels of 50-55 decibels.”
Martis explains how local residents can help set a slower pace for proposed projects.
“One of the things that residents of Morgan County should be encouraging their county commissioners to consider is the idea of a moratorium on any wind development at this point. Take a 6 or 12 month break as a county, and take a hard look at the current wind turbine zoning ordinance, which is 10 years old. A lot has been learned in the last 10 years. The ordinance appears to be an ordinance that has been spread by many people in the wind industry across the Midwest in the last 10 years, and it was considering turbine heights of 300-400 feet tall, not 660 feet.”
Martis says other counties in Illinois have already established these precautions.
“It’s very important for the county to act fast if they want to amend this ordinance, because under Illinois law as soon as the wind company applies for permits the permit under the existing zoning regulations, the current set ordinances are grandfathered in. They have a vested right in those ordinances as they are established at the time of application. This is why we’re seeing counties across Illinois enacting these moratoria, taking a break and slowing the process down. This allows the time for various stakeholders to provide their own thoughts, and gives commissioners the chance to truly consider the idea of whether the current ordinance is appropriate for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of wind turbine neighbors.”
Ted Hartke has lived in Illinois throughout the majority of his life, currently in Champaign County. A licensed engineer in the state of Illinois since 2005, Hartke agrees with the need for the moratorium.
“A moratorium is not a ban on wind turbines. It’s a pause button. Morgan County would not receive any application for wind projects until you have a replacement ordinance that has been properly vetted and voted upon. Once the new ordinance is in place, the moratorium is lifted and then wind companies can apply for permits to build their wind turbines in Morgan County.”
Hartke explains the steps to take to call for a moratorium from county commissioners.
“A moratorium is easily established by going to the Board and determining how to place the request for a moratorium on the agenda for a county board meeting. Open Meetings Act requirements include the fact that the agenda for any public Board meeting must be released publicly at least 48 hours before the beginning of the meeting, which means you will want to secure the spot for a moratorium vote on an agenda before that point. At the next county board meeting, the commissioners can vote whether or not to establish the moratorium.”
There were over 120 people in attendance last night, including all three County Board of Commissioners members as well as South Jacksonville Village President Harry Jennings.