PIERCE, NE — The heated debate over the future of wind developments in Pierce County will continue for at least another month.
At its meeting on Monday, the Board of Commissioners chose to table the topic until the March 26th meeting to allow for more time to get the public’s opinion. The commissioners seem focused on the issue of the setback requirement: should wind turbines be at least 2700 feet away from houses like the Planning Commission recommended or 3500 feet like proposed by Commissioner Terry Wragge.
Wragge says the decision is about trying to make everyone happy.
“If we put them too close to somebody else’s place then they’re going to get mad about it,” Wragge said. “We just want to keep it far enough from everybody so it don’t bother nobody.”
Wragge says he thinks 95 percent of people in his district don’t want the wind turbines because they don’t like how they look.
Rick Sirek is among those against wind developments. His concerns go beyond appearance to sound. He says he knows people who live 1.5 miles from turbines in Holt County.
“It sounds like a jet engine roaring at all times out there,” Sirek said. “Why should they have to live with it because their neighbor wants to make $5,000 a year?”
But saying no to wind developments would also be turning away millions of dollars of tax revenue per year. According to the Antelope County Treasurer’s Office, the Prairie Breeze wind development generated $1,077,688 in tax revenue last year. Much of the money has gone to schools, with Elgin Public schools raking in $1,103,689.88 over three years.
Tradewind Energy is a wind developer looking to build a similarly sized wind farm in Pierce County. Development Manager Kate Valentine says it could be a source of economic development for the area.
“(It’s) a significant opportunity Nebraska has to develop this natural resource, generate some revenue from that,” Valentine said.
Valentine says Tradewind also doles out over $1 million a year to property owners with turbines on their land.
She says technology has largely solved problems with sound or shadow flicker and concerns come from misinformation or old information.
“Any of those issues are mitigated,” Valentine said. “It’s something that is a straightforward part of the rote process of development at this point.”
But the uncertainty of a wind development is enough for Sirek to remain opposed.
“I would hate to be the last county, Pierce County, to have commissioners put them in here and then two or three years down the road there’s another form of alternate energy and these things are going to standing there forever,” Sirek said.
The first public hearing regarding wind energy was held nearly a year ago. The County has a moratorium on development until June 19th.