Jay County (IN): Wind and solar rules advance

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 20, 2019  /   Posted in solar, Uncategorized, wind  /   No Comments

Jay County

Location of Jay County, Indiana

From The Commercial Review Friday, August 9, 2019

Wind and solar rules advance

By RAY COONEY

An updated wind farm ordinance and a new solar ordinance are moving forward.

Jay County Plan Commission on Thursday OK’d minor changes and voted to advance the proposed ordinances that have been in the works for more than a year.

Plan commission also OK’d a variety of other additions and amendments to the county zoning ordinance.

The new ordinances and changes still have to go through several steps before going into effect.

They will be subject to a public hearing — it is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 in the auditorium at Jay County Courthouse — before the plan commission votes.

If passed, they would then move on to Jay County Commissioners for final approval.

Changes to the proposed wind farm and solar farm ordinances OK’d Thursday included updated language in the road use agreement noting that equipment such as transition lines would not be allowed to be constructed in any county right-of-way or easement without prior written approval.

The new wind farm ordinance, which was first presented in March after being hashed out by a seven-member study committee, is twice as long as the seven-page original that was put in place more than a decade ago.

Among the proposed changes are the following turbine setback increases and additions:

  • 1.5 times the height of the turbine away from the property line of non-participating landowners, up from the current 350 feet or 1.1 times the height of the turbine.
  • 1,500 feet from residential dwellings for non-participating landowners, up from the current 1,000 feet.
  • 1,500 feet from any church, school, business or public building. S
  • One-half mile from any nature preserve, park or recreational use area.

The updated ordinance also notes that any buried cable must be at least 5 feet deep, with warning mesh at 3 feet. Cables would also have to be marked at road crossings, creeks, river beds and property lines.

Also addressed is shadow flicker — the shadow produced by the rotating blades — with a requirement that the wind farm operator must take “reasonable steps” to minimize the impact upon receiving a written complaint from a landowner.

Plan commission, via the study committee, has been reviewing the county’s wind farm ordinance since last summer after Jay County Commissioners followed its recommendation to impose a three-year moratorium on such developments in response to opposition of Scout Clean Energy’s proposal for Bitter Ridge Wind Farm. (The construction process is getting underway this week on that project, which moved forward under existing rules. It is scheduled to go online in September 2020.)

The most extensive discussion on the solar ordinance Thursday was regarding the section regarding whether or not to allow those who install personal solar energy systems to sell energy to offsite users. The proposed ordinance now states that power created from such systems is for “on-site use only by the owner.” Language addressing net metering — connecting to a public-utility power grid to transfer surplus power — was deleted.

The other significant addition was setting a permit fee of $1,750 per megawatt hour, which matches the wind farm ordinance.

Proposed changes to other sections of the county zoning ordinance that were advanced Thursday include:

  • Deleting a section of the ordinance regarding urban residential districts, none of which exist in Jay County.
  • A requirement that all new homes must have more than 950 square feet of occupied space. (The current ordinance does not include size requirements.)
  • The addition of a section about conflicts of interest, the language of which mirrors state code.
  • An increase in setbacks for ponds to 75 feet from a road right of way, up from the current 50 feet.
  • Clarification that the sections of the ordinance directly addressing small wind energy systems, commercial wind farms and solar energy systems supersede other sections of the ordinance when addressing such developments.

Copies of the proposed changes to the Jay County Zoning Ordinance are as follows:

Section 217 Wind Farms Standards - Sept 2019

Section 218 Small Wind Energy - Sept 2019

Section 219 Solar Energy Standards - Sept 2019

 

 

US DOE: Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 12, 2019  /   Posted in solar  /   No Comments
Lanai solar farm sheep
Photographer: Merrill Smith

US DOE: Farmer's Guide to Going Solar

A growing number of farms and agricultural businesses are looking to solar to power their daily operations. Thanks in part to the Solar Energy Technologies Office's investments, the cost of going solar has declined, enabling more installations across the country. Consider these questions to help you determine what’s best for you and your farm.

See https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/farmers-guide-going-solar

Here are the questions this US DOE website addresses:

  • Will solar modules contaminate the soil underneath or around them?
  • Can solar modules change the microclimate underneath the modules and worsen invasive species, fungal, nematode or other pest problems?
  • Will solar modules heat up and dry out vegetation or crops under the modules?
  • Can wild animals like antelope or elk graze under solar modules?
  • Can domesticated animals like sheep or cattle graze at ground-mounted solar facilities?
  • What is the impact of solar modules on birds or other wildlife species?
  • Can you grow native vegetation or pollinator habitat underneath solar modules?
  • Will solar modules drive up the price of food?
  • Is it safe to spray agrochemicals near solar modules?
  • Can solar modules power my irrigation equipment?
  • I lease my farmland. Can I still install solar PV?
  • I can’t drive my tractor through or around solar modules. Are there ways I can still install solar?
  • I need to burn my fields every year. Can I still install solar PV?
  • My farmland floods in the spring. Can I still install solar PV?
  • What are the impacts of dust on the performance of solar PV modules?
  • Can my land be converted back to agricultural land after the life of the solar system?
  • What are the benefits of co-locating solar and crop production?
  • Are there trade-offs of raising solar modules to accommodate crop production?

Henry Co (IN) Planning Commission: Arguments for, against wind farm

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 26, 2019  /   Posted in wind  /   No Comments

Henry County Plan Commission_07-23-2019

Members of the Henry County (IN) Planning Commission hearing testimony on 7/23/19 on the Big Blue River Wind Farm proposed by the Calpine Corp.

Big Blue River Wind Farm hearing

A very large turn out in Bundy Auditorium in New Castle for the 4.5 hour public hearing.

IMG_1529

Rep. Tom Sauders (R-Lewisville) attended and testified 7/23/19.

Above photos taken by Laura Ann Arnold

Arguments for, against wind farm

Darryl Neal (right) points to a map showing where a proposed wind turbine would go up across the street from the home his son, Jake, is building. Darryl wondered outloud if Jake should have even started work on the new home. The map also shows four-mile buffer zones around different communities in that part of the county.

By TRAVIS WEIK

tweik@thecouriertimes.com

“Thank you, Henry County, for showing up tonight,” County Commission Ed Tarantino said Tuesday.

Tarantino was speaking to the Henry County Planning Commission – and the hundreds of people sitting out in Bundy Auditorium to see how the planning commission voted on a proposed wind farm.

The Henry County Planning Commission ultimately did not approve a permit request Tuesday night for the Big Blue River Wind Farm, which is owned by Calpine Corporation.

Before their final vote, however, the planning commission members heard approximately two hours of comments from people supporting the application, people opposing the application and government entities and representatives.

In support

The first two people to speak in favor of Henry County’s proposed wind farm were actually from Indianapolis.

Lauren Ann Arnold offered a national perspective of the energy regulatory industry. Arnold said there is a nationwide move of energy companies to strive for 100% carbon-free renewable energy as the long-term expectation for meeting electricity needs.

Jared Noblitt serves as Executive Director of the Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy.

“While many folks of Henry County seem fixated on the negatives of allowing wind turbines here, we are focused on the benefits,” Noblitt said.

Noblitt argued a wind farm in Henry County would generate millions of dollars in property taxes, helping get around the state’s property tax caps.

He said a project like Calpine’s would also give local farmers another way to get the most out of their personal property.

New Castle resident Bruce Bailey said wind farm projects could be step in the right direction to combating climate change.

“The world needs alternative, renewable sources of energy to replace carbon-based fuels,” Bailey said. “Henry County needs to participate in this transfer to alternative sources of energy.”

Henry County farmer David Score said it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet in farming. Allowing some farmers to install wind turbines on their land could help matters, he said.

One speaker also argued for the wind farm project because it would take a 1-1.5 years to complete and that means jobs for people in Henry County.

“If they do come, they will be built union and they will be built local,” he said.

In total, 10 people spoke in support of the permit request.

In opposition

Attorney Steve Snyder represented several individuals and five local towns at Tuesday’s public hearing. Snyder reminded the planning commission members they have the authority to increase safety setback distances beyond the minimums in the county ordinance.

“If you review the information I have provided on setbacks, you will see that 1,500 ft. setback from a residence is woefully inadequate,” Snyder said.

Snyder said the five towns he represents have filed suit against Big Blue River Wind Farm LLC “to enforce health and safety ordinances that were adopted by the towns.”

Snyder said those ordinances, which create four-mile buffer zones around each town, were created by state lawmakers to give Indiana towns the ability to protect their citizens from “threats to health and safety” existing outside the towns.

Harrison Township resident Rosalind Richey accused Calpine of not meeting all the requirements in their application. Richey said, for example, the studies provided do not cover low-frequency noise or infrasound, as outlined in the ordinance.

Richey claimed the plan also ignores other underground utilities in the area.

“This plan puts the health and safety and general welfare of potentially thousands of people at risk,” Richey said.

Mike Hagerman, also from Harrison Township, called the public hearing “another opportunity for this planning commission to protect Henry County and Henry County citizens.”

Hagerman was distressed at the thought of the earthwork that would be required to pour the foundations of 500 ft. turbines. He also worried about the concrete bases leeching into underground water supplies.

Retired educator Robert Hobbs said three turbines are planned near his home.

Hobbs asked for clarification on any penalties Henry County could use against Calpine or any other company that violated the wind ordinances.

Betsy Mills, from rural Middletown, and Jim McShirley, of Jefferson Township, argued that wind turbines would suppress growth in Henry County.

McShirley used the terms “walled off, entombed, encapsulated” to describe what could happen to Henry County as economic growth continues to spread for Indianapolis.

In total, 15 people spoke in opposition to the permit request.

Governmental

State Representative Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) was included in the “opposition” segment of the public hearing. Nonetheless, he spoke as the man who represents Henry County in the Statehouse.

Saunders pointed out that in the most recent legislative session, the legislature grandfathered 12 ordinances into law from Henry County towns that created the buffer zones mentioned earlier in the meeting.

Saunders had a 2008 Indiana Supreme Court ruling as support to his argument that towns have the ability to pass local regulatory ordinances, even if they don’t have explicit zoning authority.

“Those ordinances were adopted legally and lawfully and they stand that way today,” Saunders said to the planning commission. “I think, and you guys can correct me if I’m wrong, of the 38 turbines, 36 are within the buffer zone.”

Saunders said it appeared Henry County voters spoke in the last election when they replaced five incumbents with anti-wind candidates.

“I think it is our duty to represent the people who sent us here and who elect us and depend on us to look out for their well-beings,” Saunders said.

Commissioner Tarantino said, “For Henry County, the negatives far outweigh the positives.”

Susan Huhn, president of the Henry County Council, quoted figures from Calpine claiming the wind farm could provide $800,000 a year, on average, in tax revenue for Henry County. Huhn asked how much that new money could ultimately cost the community.

Huhn said wind farms could discourage families from moving to Henry County. Fewer families mean fewer students enrolled in local schools. Which in turn translates to less state funding and even less money to pay teachers.

“We need to choose wisely how we use our resources,” Huhn said.

Henry County Auditor Debbie Walker cited enrollment data further illustrating how school districts around wind farms lost students after turbines went up in their area. County Council member Peg Stefandel showed that Henry County has a higher population density than any other Indiana county that has industrial wind turbines.

Linda Winchester, Henry County Recorder, recounted the hours and money people have spent in her office researching proposed wind farm projects over the years.

“As on official, I know the importance of listening and working on behalf of my constituents,” Winchester said. “We are to serve them, abiding by their wishes. Otherwise, we jeopardize their trust in our positions as officials.”

Winchester also recently learned she may be living in the proposed wind farm area.

“Like the voters, I do not wish to live in such a project,” she told the planning commission.

The Henry County Planning Commission ultimately voted 4-4 on the request. Because the request needed five votes either way to definitively be approved or denied, it is officially “not approved.”

There was no word from the Planning Commission office as of Wednesday afternoon what the next steps are – if any – regarding Calpine’s application.

Editor's note: Comments from Henry County Council President Susan Huhn were clarified.

Henry Co. (IN) Hearing 7/23/19 on Big Blue River Wind Farm

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 23, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized, wind  /   No Comments

HENRY COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION

1201 RACE STREET, SUITE 214

NEW CASTLE, INDIANA 47362

 

Darrin Jacobs                                                                                      Phone 765-529-7408

Zoning Administrator                                                                         Fax     765-521-7072

 

RE:      NOTICE of Planning Commission Case B:2228

Dear Sir/Ma’am,

The purpose of this letter is to notify you that the Henry County Planning Commission has received a petition from Big Blue River Wind Farm, LLC of 717 Texas Avenue, Suite 1000, Houston, Texas 77002, requesting to receive a Commission Approved Use (CAU) for a Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) Project to be known as the Big Blue River Wind Farm. The Project is to consist of not more than 38 wind turbines. Properties within the Project area are owned by multiple property owners located in portions of Fall Creek, Jefferson, Prairie, Henry, Harrison, and Greensboro Townships.

For the purpose of considering the effect of this request, the Planning Commission will conduct a Public Hearing to be held in Bundy Auditorium, 601 Parkview Dr. New Castle, IN 47362 at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019.

Interested persons desiring to present their views upon the proposed change will be given the opportunity to be heard at the above mentioned time and place or may submit their views in writing by contacting the Planning Commission at the Henry County Office Building, 1201 Race St., Suite 214, New Castle, Indiana 47362. All information concerning this case is on file in the office of the Planning Commission and is available for inspection during regular business hours or online at http://www.henryco.net/PlanningCommBigBlueRiver.aspx. The hearing may be continued from time to time as may be found necessary.

This Hearing is open to the public and is not limited to those receiving copies of this Notice. For special accommodations needed for disabled individuals planning to attend, contact (765) 529-7408 at least forty-eight hours prior to the meeting to make arrangements.

Respectfully,

 

Darrin Jacobs

Zoning Administrator

Henry County Planning Commission

(765) 529-7408

djacobs@henryco.net

Maryland’s highest court rules state can trump counties in deciding where solar, wind projects can go

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 18, 2019  /   Posted in solar, wind  /   No Comments

Maryland’s highest court rules state can trump counties in deciding where solar, wind projects can go

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