E-On Climate and Renewables to move forward with a wind farm

The Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals has approved an exception allowing E-On Climate and Renewables to move forward with a wind farm. The Kokomo Tribune reports the company brought in health and property value experts in hopes of addressing concerns from some area residents.

The Kokomo Tribune reports the hearing on the request lasted more than two hours. A group called Hoosiers Against Wind Farms argued for changes requiring a longer distance a wind turbine must be placed from a residence. Opponents also spoke out about concerns over property values.

E-on Project Manager Andy Melka says the company is on track to begin construction in the late fall or early spring. The $400 million wind farm is expected to span Tipton, Howard, Grant and Madison counties.

E-on plans to construct a 200-megawatt wind farm in the four-county area — including land in Tipton, Howard, Grant and Madison counties — at an estimated cost of $400 million.

The wind power project, Melka said, includes between 80 and 125 wind turbines, and an estimated 150 acres. Melka said the company’s request for the conditional use met all the requirements of the Tipton County zoning ordinance. He said the company was voluntarily extending the setback between a residential property from 1,000 feet as required in the county’s ordinance to 1,250 feet.

A Chicago doctor addressed health concerns caused by the operation of the wind turbines, particularly noise. “Wind turbines don’t produce any sounds outside what would be considered normal,” Mark Roberts said. “Wind turbines have been around for a long time, there has not been a lot written in scientific journals. Right now, there is no evidence that wind turbines impact noise.”

Several people raised concerns that the placement of wind turbines would reduce property values, particularly for non-participating property owners.

Mark Thayer, a San Diego State University professor, published a study in 2009 that looked at property values around 24 wind farms in 10 states. He said the study looked at residential property sales before, during construction and after the wind farms went into operation.

“We found no impact,” Thayer said. “There has been no study that showed an impact since our study was published. Tipton County is right in our sample range, it looks exactly like some of our study areas.”

Tipton County Commissioner Mike Cline said the commissioners have endorsed the wind energy project. “It increases the tax base and doesn’t require any extra services,” he said.

Property owner Larry Conway said he was skeptical about the wind power project at first, but after visiting a wind farm in Benton County, he found there was little noise created and the roads were improved.

“Our taxes have doubled in the past four years,” Conway said. “You can’t keep raising taxes on land owners every year. Benton County farmers have seen an increase in property values.” With the approval from the zoning board, the company is now able to apply for building permits.