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Resident calls for wind energy moratorium

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Staff photo by Peter Williams Kevin Chandler, a spokesman for Apex Clean Energy, talks to a visitor to the Perquimans County Business Expo about the Timbermill wind energy project.

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Reggie Ponder

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A citizen asked the Chowan County Board of Commissioners last week to follow the Perquimans commissioners in imposing a moratorium on the development of large-scale wind energy facilities.

Patti Kersey, a former member of the Chowan Planning Board and an author of the planning board report from April of this year that recommended a one-mile setback and other stringent standards be incorporated into the county’s wind energy ordinance, told the commissioners at their Oct. 7 meeting that given the board’s recent decision not to approve the stronger standards for wind energy generation facilities, she would suggest a different approach.

The board should adopt a moratorium on utility-scale wind energy development as the Perquimans commissioners did, Kersey said.

Perquimans officials decided they wanted to ensure their wind energy ordinance was based on the most recent independent science, and imposed a 120-day moratorium in order to provide adequate time for a review of the ordinance, she said.

“What a refreshing contrast,” Kersey said of Perquimans’ 120-day review period – noting the Chowan commissioners allowed the planning board only 30 days for its review.

There is recent independent data that needs to be taken into consideration, she said.

“Respectfully, y’all need to

go back to school on this topic,” Kersey said.

Kersey’s comments came during the public comment period at the meeting, which had been rescheduled from its original Oct. 5 slot due to weather-related concerns.

Apex Clean Energy Inc., a company based in Charlottesville, Va., has proposed the Timbermill Wind Energy Project in the Bear Swamp area of Chowan and Perquimans counties. The project would be the first utility-scale wind energy generation project in Chowan County. The Amazon Wind Project already is being developed by a different wind energy company, Iberdrola, in the Desert section of Perquimans and Pasquotank counties.

Also during the public comment period, Perquimans resident Alan Lennon said protecting citizens’ health, safety and welfare is the top responsibility of county officials, and additional protections for citizens are needed regarding wind energy development.

The Timbermill Wind Project would forever alter the landscape of Chowan and Perquimans counties and the only ones to benefit would be a few large landowners, Lennon said.

It really isn’t a technical issue but a “heart issue,” and the commissioners’ heart needs to be for the community, Lennon said.

Chowan resident Harriet Dehart cited an article in a Green Bay, Wisc., newspaper that reported county officials in Brown County, Wisc., had determined wind turbines were a health risk to citizens.

Brown County has a population of 248,000, yet officials there listened to only 80 people.

Citizens seeking a more stringent wind energy ordinance in Chowan County have pointed to a petition signed by more than 600 local residents.

Dehart said the commissioners needed to do their own research on wind energy facilities.

“Don’t accept everything that Apex tells you,” she said.

Angela Toppin also asked the board to do its own research, and visit a wind farm independently of Apex.

Ron Cummings, a candidate for county commissioner last year and an outspoken advocate for a more stringent wind energy ordinance, said a community in Illinois had found noise and property value concerns with wind turbines.

An Illinois native, Cummings said he owns property there himself and had seen his own property values decline.

Virginia Wood drew an analogy to the ads commonly seen on television for prescription medications. The ads begin with a description of the medicine’s benefits, but then at the very end remind you to consider the possible side effects.

“I think this windmill thing is kind of like that,” Wood said. Apex is talking about the wind energy but isn’t discussing side effects such as health problems that can be caused by large wind turbines, she said.

Wood also responded to comments at a recent meeting that held up Scotland as a country that had developed wind energy without a lot of public controversy. Wood said only 2 percent of the windmills in Scotland had been able to generate a significant amount of electricity. For that reason, Scotland is moving away from wind turbines, she said.

Lynn Partin asked the commissioners if they really believed the county’s wind ordinance protects the citizens of the county.

It is based on the state’s model wind ordinance, but that ordinance indicates the need to consider local factors in drafting a local ordinance, she said.

Partin said the county needed to consider factors such as hurricanes and the prospect of a 600-foot-high wind turbine being knocked over by hurricane-force winds.

She said the Australian study of the effects of large wind turbines on human health, which was cited recently by wind energy supporters in the county as evidence that wind turbines don’t harm human health, actually states that the turbines are not likely to cause significant health problems for people if they are located more than nine-tenths of a mile away.

Partin said she doesn’t think sufficient attention was paid to the detail about nine-tenths of a mile.

Studies have shown that large wind turbines can cause health problems for people that include nausea, sleep deprivation and heart palpitations, Partin said.

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