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LES wind turbine

A Lincoln Electric System wind turbine spins as the sun sets in this file photo.

Wind turbines in Lancaster County could operate at a higher noise limit, under a plan that’s received initial approval.

The word “could” is of the utmost importance here.

A text amendment would increase the noise standard from its current 40 decibels during the day and 37 decibels at night to 50 decibels around the clock – but only for those property owners who wish to participate in a wind project. The regulations wouldn’t change for those who declined to take part.

If the proposal passes, it would permit individual landowners the freedom to choose whether to partake in such a project without subjecting others to any additional noise. That self-determination is the vital component to the plan, which we encourage the Lancaster County Board to pass next week.

To provide a bit of context for the noise level, 40 decibels is akin to a quiet conversation indoors. When the Journal Star editorial board discussed this topic, we used a decibel meter to measure the volume of our voices, which ranged between 25 and 60 decibels.

The sound clearly isn’t ear-splitting, but it could be a nuisance to those who don’t want to participate in a wind project. Allowing those property owners to operate under the current standards – which were lowered at their request in 2015 – ensures their rights will be respected, too.

Residents’ concerns aren’t without merit. Their points of contention, especially regarding health and wildlife, need to be heard. Furthermore, those who have lived in rural areas of Lancaster County for some time built their dream houses before wind turbines began to dot the horizon.

However, those residents who are OK with the added noise for a paycheck from a company shouldn’t be barred from doing so. Studies cited by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, which has also backed the proposal, indicate that allowing residents the ability to choose decreases dissatisfaction tied to wind projects – even with higher sound levels.

Wind turbines come with some environmental hazards, to be sure. But the ability to generate renewable energy without the emissions tied to coal-fired plants – and the resulting economic benefits to individual landowners and counties – make wind projects worth considering, especially as production of and demand for wind energy has climbed in recent years.

And, as any Nebraskan knows, the wind often whips across the plains here. The American Wind Energy Association notes that turbines in Nebraska crank out electricity more often than any other state.

With that in mind, Lancaster County property owners who want to take part in wind projects should be have that choice. Those who refuse should be able to abide under the existing restrictions. The plan before county commissioners permits both sides to do so – hence why it’s worth approving.

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