Nebraska County Puts Hold on Wind Facility Development

Published February 6, 2020

The Hamilton County, Nebraska Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to place a six-month hold on all applications for wind turbine projects in the county.

The December 16 decision halted work on an application for an industrial wind farm sought by Hamilton County Wind, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bluestem Energy Solutions.

Hamilton County Wind had proposed erecting four wind towers, each measuring 497 feet from the ground to the tip of the blades, on private land in the county. With each tower rated at 2.82 megawatts (Mw), the total rated capacity of the project would be 11.28 Mw.

Hamilton County commissioners had previously approved a comprehensive plan and zoning regulations that included some provisions for wind generation, including a half-mile setback from property lines.

Public, Commissioners Concerned

Minutes recorded at the December 9, 2019 public hearing considering the Bluestem application show residents expressed concerns about possible health effects from the large wind turbines, especially for those living near turbine sites. Other attendees testified they feared their property would be devalued if a large industrial facility were located near their property.

During the meeting, the county commissioners issued several findings of fact based on information supplied by the county Planning Commission, including that industrial wind facilities may be detrimental to the health, safety, morals, comfort, or general welfare of the public; wind facilities may be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity; and the facilities could substantially diminish and impair property values in the neighborhoods surrounding the turbines.

Days after the hearing, the commissioners imposed the six-month moratorium and directed county staff to research the effect of wind farms on public health.

Local residents expressed concern about health and economic problems wind energy causes, Hamilton County Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeremy Brandt told Environment & Climate News.

My office received a great amount of pushback from the public based on concerns about property values and general health of the citizens,” Brandt said.

Calls for Continued Vigilance

Hamilton County residents opposed to industrial wind facilities in their county must remain vigilant because the moratorium does not mean the battle is over, says John Droz, executive director of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions.

“A six-month moratorium does not provide total assurance a project is actually dead,” said Droz. “In the United States, wind energy issues are usually decided at the local level by citizens and their representatives, and the Hamilton County commissioners are to be applauded for considering the economic concerns raised by their constituents.

“When wind facilities are being considered, it comes down to two options: defending the rights of citizens, small businesses, the environment, and the military, or accepting a financial payment for forgoing those rights,” Droz said.

Duggan Flanakin ([email protected])¬†writes from Austin, Texas.