ROCA -- Proposed noise rules being drafted to regulate commercial wind turbines in Lancaster County are so restrictive they would effectively prevent wind projects being developed here, according to a Portland, Oregon-based company that wants to develop a 50-turbine farm in Lancaster and Gage counties.
“From the wind industry standpoint this is quite extreme,” Joe Wood, project engineer for wind energy company Volkswind, said Thursday at the final meeting of a working group created to give input on the zoning.
The proposed rules would give Lancaster County the most restrictive noise regulations for commercial wind turbine projects in the state. Wood said the likelihood of violating those regulations would be so great that wind energy companies would build in other counties rather than risk violating the zoning regulations.
Scott Holmes, environmental health division manager for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, said the proposed rules were based on recent studies evaluating the potential health impacts of the constant, percussive sound made by wind turbines, which can cause annoyance and sleep disturbance.
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Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department officials presented proposed zoning revisions for wind farms Thursday night at the Roca Community Center. The more than two-hour meeting is the seventh time the working group has met since its formation earlier this year.
Noise was one of 22 issues addressed in the draft document that came out of those earlier meetings. Other issues included shadow flicker from blades, impact on area property values, bonds to ensure removal of towers when decommissioned and setbacks from neighboring properties.
Several residents said the proposed setback of 1,000 feet, or three times the unit height including blades, was not enough. They also said setbacks should be from property lines, not from the exterior wall of residences.
Wood said that the setbacks being demanded by opponents to the Volkswind project would limit the ability of private landowners to use their property for profit and restrict where turbines can be built to the point of making the project an impossibility.
“There needs to be a middle ground that is reasonable based on all the things we’re talking about that allow for farmers who want to put wind turbines on their property to do that. And there is a point where these setbacks become so extreme that is not allowed,” he said.
Cindy Chapman, who owns an acreage near Firth, responded: “And without appropriate setbacks, you are extremely limiting the use, enjoyment and ability to sell my property.”
It could be months yet before the proposed rules are finalized and voted on by county officials.
“This is a draft today. We may make some additional changes based on a lot of the comments we received tonight,” Stephen Henrichsen, development review manager for the Lincoln-Lancaster Planning Department, said.
The Planning Department plans to compile and release proposed rule changes this summer, then have a 30-day comment period. Department officials will create a final draft to submit to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission, which would make a recommendation to the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, which has the final approval.
For more information on the working group and proposals, visit https://lincoln.ne.gov/city/plan/dev/wind/index.htm.