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9/17/11 Nightmare in the cornfield. Got complaints? Too late. You already signed the wind developers contract AND Don't Ask, Can't Tell, wind companies put gag orders on families whose homes they've purchased

From Illinois


By Tamara Abbey

SOURCE www.newstrib.com

September 17, 2011 

Roads that were not meant to be used have been prepared for turbine-construction traffic in areas where there are no turbines planned. Other subcontractors have made paths through fields that aren’t even part of the project

They started the bulldozing after the corn started maturing and now the ears of corn mixed with topsoil will continue germinating for the next few years, Englehart said. The large piles of dirt ringing the remaining corn will make it difficult for combines to even get in the fields this year

Rutted paths snake through cornfields eventually ending in giant circles around pink-tipped poles standing in wetlands, ravines and in the middle of trampled cornstalks. This time it wasn’t a cyclone that hit Cyclone Road in Brooklyn Township: it’s the heavy equipment of Goldwind USA as they resume development of Shady Oaks Wind Farm.

Paths chopped through fields sometimes don’t go anywhere at all. Other paths leave only a few rows of corn standing on either side. Farmers such as Wesley Englehart and Charlene Zimmerman are left wondering how they’re going to get the crops out of the field next month around the mounds of dirt and with only slim stands of corn left in some fields.

Englehart, Zimmerman and her brother, Alan, are among landowners that signed on to the project back in 2005 when GSG Wind Energy of Sublette started the development. The project was then sold to Mainstream Renewables which in turn partnered with Goldwind USA late last year. The project was then fully acquired by Goldwind, a company that got its start by constructing wind turbines in China. The 120-megawatt Lee County wind farm is the first large-scale project undertaken by the company following a 4.5-megawatt pilot project in Minnesota.

Englehart and the Zimmermans are now learning the hard way that the 2005 contract included a lot of implied agreements between the landowners and the developers. They both reluctantly noted the original contract left a lot of control in the hands of the developer and they didn’t anticipate the project would change hands so many times.

Charlene Zimmerman said they were led to believe the turbines would generate 2-2.5 megawatts each; instead the company only makes 1.5-megawatt turbines which means they plan to erect 70-72 turbines on farms in Brooklyn Township instead of the originally-anticipated 50-60 turbines.

The increased number of turbines results in more heavy equipment and machinery trekking through corn fields and down township roads. Englehart said they sent the first wave of subcontractors out in the spring when the ground was still wet.

“They started boring right after a heavy rain,” Englehart said. “They created these two-foot-deep ruts.”

A different subcontractor arrived to work on another portion of the project but headed off in their own direction through cornfields, cutting paths and making more ruts, Zimmerman added.

The final map of turbine locations also causes some concern for Englehart and Zimmerman.

“This down the road here, it’s registered as a wetlands,” Englehart said. “If they put it in there, it would be underwater if we have a heavy rain.”

Zimmerman said turbines on her family’s property will soon be constructed in areas that turn into ponds every spring and down in ravines.

To get to these locations, the company will bring in huge equipment for construction and installation. As a township supervisor, Englehart also criticized Goldwind for a lack of communication with subcontractors. Roads that were not meant to be used have been prepared for turbine-construction traffic in areas where there are no turbines planned. Other subcontractors have made paths through fields that aren’t even part of the project, Englehart added.

Construction timing also makes no sense to Englehart. He said they came in and started bulldozing row after row of corn while leaving the primarily Round-Up ready corn mixed with the top soil. They started the bulldozing after the corn started maturing and now the ears of corn mixed with topsoil will continue germinating for the next few years, Englehart said. The large piles of dirt ringing the remaining corn will make it difficult for combines to even get in the fields this year, Zimmerman added.

He estimates losses at $30,000-$50,000 on his land alone. According to the contract, Goldwind USA is obligated to compensate him for the loss.

“Had they did it in the spring, there would have been very little damage,” he said.

Access isn’t a problem for the wind farm subcontractors though, Englehart said. Since township bridges are up to 50 years old, they cannot support oversize traffic. Instead, they created their own road right through Englehart’s cornfield and bordering wildlife conservation habitat. Bridge replacement would have cost approximately $200,000, a cost the company chose not to pay in order to reach sites where another 11 turbines will be constructed.

“I had no problem with Mendota Hills or the one on the other side of the county line,” Zimmerman said. “But this contract is you’re basically signing your life away. The contract says they can basically do anything on your land.”

Goldwind USA is contractually obligated to repair any damage to township roads and the landowners will continue to receive income from the land used for turbines, but even those guarantees are now in question based on the company’s current construction practice.

“The contract says we’re supposed to get our money the moment they started grading,” Zimmerman said. “I’m not sure that everybody has their money yet.”

Compensation for the loss of this year’s crops could delay planting next year since they have to wait for a formal statement of acres lost to the construction. Then Englehart and Zimmerman worry about the compaction to the soil and any crushed tiles that drain water from the fields. Englehart said problems with tile could take several years to detect.

Then farmers will have to watch for the buried electric cables transmitting power from the turbines to a substation. Unlike other wind farm projects, the cables will run directly from turbine to turbine rather than along township and turbine access roads. That leaves Englehart and Zimmerman with more concerns about soil compaction and later field work.

“You’ve got the driveways, you’ve got the crane paths, you’ve got the circles (around the future turbines),” Englehart said. “It’s a nightmare.”

Englehart and Zimmerman also gave Lee County Board member Lisa Zeimetz of Paw Paw a tour of some of the areas bulldozed for construction. Ziemetz said there is little the county can do since the project is under township jurisdiction. She did ask them to be available to help counsel landowners that may be involved in future projects.

“I understand they have the right to do this, but it doesn’t seem kosher,” she said.

A message left at Goldwind USA’s Chicago office was not returned. Previously published reports state Goldwind anticipates completing the project by the end of the year.


From Illinois



SOURCE, www.saukvalley.com

September 17, 2011 

Ray Zakrzewski, Aug. 18: Shadow flicker is unnerving. Poor TV reception. Two potential buyers of house have refused to make offers because of these issues.

DIXON – Over the past few months, officials in Lee and Whiteside counties have heard plenty of promises from wind energy companies.

Corporate officials often pledge to take care of complaints about their turbines.

Will they?

Only time will tell. But experience may be an indicator in Lee County. Whiteside County, on the other hand, has no wind farms.

In its files, Lee County has 11 complaints that say turbines have affected TV and radio reception – all received this year about one company. They also blame turbines for other problems, including shadow flicker and difficulty selling homes.

Rosemead, Calif.-based Edison Mission Group has 114 turbines in Bureau and Lee counties. Residents in both counties have complained that the towers hurt broadcast reception.

In some cases, Lee County has documentation on how the company answered the complaints about the wind farm, which started a year ago.

In March, Big Sky sent letters via Federal Express to residents who have complained about the problems. The company offered a settlement of $2,500 for each resident to resolve their grievances; it was called the “best, last and final” offer.

“We believe this to be a fair market offer that has already been accepted by several of your neighbors,” the company said in the letter.

The company has 58 turbines in Lee County and 56 in Bureau County, covering 13,000 acres.

‘Take-it-or-leave-it’ deal

Resident Gary Todd filed his complaint in January, saying his rental property on Sheehan Road had suffered poor TV reception since the turbines went into operation.

In response, he said, Edison Mission put in a satellite receiver for his TV and offered to pay $2,500 for satellite service. He took the deal. The money could pay for satellite service for a few years.

“It was kind of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal,” he said.

Others refused the offer.

“They did have an offer of $2,500 if we never complained again,” said William Ogan of Baseline Road. “It didn’t seem right at the time.”

Ogan, who filed his complaint in January, said the company told him that his antenna wasn’t high enough. But he disagreed. With that same antenna, he said, his TV got better reception before the wind farm started.

His wife, Claudia Ogan, said her TV had often been down to one channel since the wind farm started operating. The turbine blades appear to affect the signal, she said.

“They said it was our fault, that we had to cut down trees next to the house,” she said. “We truly believe that some of the problem is caused by windmills. It’s not as if we can’t afford cable, but some people can’t.”

Still, she said, there’s a plus side to the turbines. Her family gets payments for two of them because they stand on the Ogans’ farm.

“We have a brother-in-law in a nursing home, and this is paying the way,” she said.

Mark Henkel of Maytown Road near Sublette complained in April that because of the wind farm, TV signals are intermittent, with the entire picture lost at times.

His wife, Tammy Henkel, said Edison Mission hadn’t responded.

“The ones who complained earlier got some extra service,” she said. “We’ve gotten nothing. It’s very frustrating to watch a program and you’re not even seeing half of it.

“It’s nice to sit down and watch the news or ‘CSI.’ But we’re hardly getting them. They’re not coming in.”

Aiming to be ‘good corporate citizen’

Susan Olavarria, an Edison Mission spokeswoman, said she didn’t want to discuss the details of any particular complaint.

“We’ve been diligently working to investigate and resolve legitimate issues raised by any complaining landowners, providing periodic updates to Lee and Bureau County administrators,” she said. “We want to be a good corporate citizen.”

In certain cases, Lee County has Edison Mission documents on the examination of particular properties. The company often advises residents to install taller antennas or better equipment.

It hired a consulting firm, Antenna Solutions, which stated in a report, “The TV reception issues appear to be caused by faulty or obsolete reception equipment.”

The firm added that the area in question is on the very edge of transmitters’ ranges. It advised that residents get state-of-the-art antennas.

In its main report, Antenna Solutions concluded by saying that more complicated issues needed further study.

Asked whether turbines had any effect on TV reception in general, Olavarria declined to comment.

Complaints about wind farm

The following are complaints filed, includes names of residents and dates of submission, to the Lee County zoning office on issues with the Big Sky wind farm, which straddles the Lee-Bureau county line:

William Ogan, Jan. 11: Getting fewer TV channels. Picture affected by movement of blades.

Gary Todd, Jan. 19: Poor TV reception. Poor cellphone reception.

Steve Full, Jan. 19: Shadow flicker.

Robert Nally, Jan. 19: Poor TV reception.

Doug McLaughlin, Jan. 13: TV reception disrupted.

Brian Jones, Feb. 9: Can’t use cordless phone outside and in parts of house. Radio station interference. Shadow flicker. Too many towers close to residences.

Joan Burke, March 17: Loss of Quad Cities TV stations.

Mark Henkel, April 7: Quad Cities stations are intermittent in quality of signal, losing picture on TV at times. New antenna put up a year ago.

Daniel Stephenitch, April 18: Poor TV reception.

Tom and Judy Sharkey, July 25: Not able to get some channels. Purchased a new TV and antenna for $1,190.

Ray Zakrzewski, Aug. 18: Shadow flicker is unnerving. Poor TV reception. Two potential buyers of house have refused to make offers because of these issues.


From Canada


 By Terry Davidson

SOURCE Toronto Sun, www.torontosun.com

 September 13, 2011

Nausea, vertigo, ringing in the ears and sleepless nights.

These are things Shawn and Trisha Drennan worry they’ll experience should 150 wind turbines be erected near their southwestern Ontario farm.

The closest one is planned for a mere 650 metres from their front door.

When the couple learned of the planned turbines — a project proposed by Capital Power Corp, which already has a handful of turbines in the Drennan’s home base of Ashfield Township and the surrounding area — the longtime crofters wondered about the health effects of living close to such technology.

The Drennans tried to talk to former homeowners who had lived close to turbines and who had been paid to move away by other energy companies to make room for more, only to be told by the one-time residents they were under a gag order as part of their respective buyouts.

They were forbidden from saying anything about wind turbines, health effects or otherwise.

Now the Drennans are going to court to try and have the gag clause invalidated, citing the lack of research around those possible health effects.

“We decided to talk to people and government and ask (health-based) questions, and the people most affected can’t talk about it,” Sean Drennan said Tuesday from the offices of lawyer Julian Falconer, adding he and wife, however, were able talk to homeowners living around turbines in nearby Shelburne township and the community of Clear Creek in Norfolk County.

He said some reported suffering from sick stomachs, vertigo and tinnitus — an ever-present ringing in the ears — from the “low-frequency” noise the turbines make.

Falconer, who has been hired by both the Drennans and the community group Safe Wind Energy for All Residents (SWEAR) to fight the gag order, says provincial approval for Capital Power to build the new turbines was a rush job, and the Drennans are being used as guinea pigs.

“We land the turbines first, and then worry about how (people are) affected?” asked Falconer, who questioned how a company could contractually gag people when so much uncertainty exists around the effects of wind turbines.

Farmers in the area are also concerned how the turbines will effect livestock and plants, as well as how the giant propeller-based towers will destroy the rural pulchritude the area is known for, said SWEAR’s Patrick Murphy.

“We know there are problems in neighbouring municipalities,” he said, adding concerns around a lack of research are what made the provincial government shelve its plans for offshore turbines earlier this year.

The Grits in February put on hold a multitude of offshore turbine projects, claiming a lack of research around environmental effects.

One particularly controversial project was Toronto Hydro’s plan to build around 70 turbines in Lake Ontario that would stretch from Toronto to Ajax. It was strongly opposed by those living close to the lake’s shoreline.

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