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Our View: Don’t close door on wind power

Most people agree that increasing the amount of energy we generate from renewable sources such as wind is a good idea.

That is, until someone plans to put wind turbines within sight of their home.

When wind turbines were proposed in DeKalb County in 2009, there was a marathon 19-hour public hearing that drew more than 700 people. Eventually the project, which led to the installation of more than 130 turbines across three townships, was approved.

This time, a San Diego company, EDF Renewable Energy, wants permission to build two wind testing towers to determine the viability of areas in South Grove Township for potential turbines.

Some people living in the area say they do not want the turbines near their property. As property owners, they have a right to be concerned about their property value and potential commercial interests.

County Board members have decided they will not approve any more wind power projects for 18 months, while they craft a renewable energy ordinance.

This seems like a prudent course of action, one that the county probably should have taken after the last wind power project.

But now that we’re here, a few things county officials should keep in mind:

• Turbines should not be permitted to interfere with commerce, including blocking signals from local radio towers.

• There should be a maximum density of turbines allowed in a given area, such as a township.

• Companies that propose wind turbines should be required to offer property value protection to landowners within a certain distance of their projects (excluding those landowners who lease ground to them). If wind turbines lower the value of nearby property, the company should be required to make up the difference between the sale price of land and its objectively determined fair-market value.

The area where the latest wind power project is being considered is one of the most sparsely populated in DeKalb County. South Grove Township, which Route 64 crosses on its way west to Ogle County, has about 500 people spread over 34 square miles.

There should be a way for wind power to coexist with the people in that space. EDF should be allowed to build its testing towers while the County Board works on a new ordinance.

If wind power can’t work in South Grove Township, it probably can’t work anywhere in DeKalb County, and the board members are wasting their time in creating an ordinance – all they need to do is pass a ban.

Although some who have appeared at public hearings for the testing towers would prefer that option, the public at large supports renewable energy, and we all know that our county sees its share of windy days. Farmland owners say extra income they generate through renting ground to turbine operators is important to their bottom line.

Our future as a society depends on clean energy. We need to learn to coexist with it, within reason.

We would like to see County Board members craft an ordinance that provides protection for people affected by new wind power projects while not making it impossible to expand wind power generation.

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