A setback for wind farms

A setback for wind farms

HOPE — An airplane that never takes off. A diesel truck idling. An interstate highway. Tennis shoes thumping in a dryer.

That's how several Vermilion County residents who live in the California Ridge wind project describe the various noises from wind turbines near their homes.

"Sometimes it sounds like a plane that never leaves ... other times like a diesel pickup or semi parked outside, and it idles all night. It depends on the wind direction," said Jeremy Lomax, a Vermilion County resident in the California Ridge wind project who, along with several other wind farm residents, is lobbying the Vermilion County Board to increase the distance a wind turbine can be built from the foundation of a house.

According to Lomax, Ted and Jessica Hartke, Jean and David Miles and Gina Isabelli — who all live within the project area — noise and shadow flicker from the turbines ranges from tolerable some days and nights when the wind isn't blowing to severe other days and nights and affects either their quality of life, health or both in various ways.

It's a familiar scenario playing out in other parts of the state, the nation, even the world — people living near wind turbines are voicing concerns about noise, shadow flicker, declining property values and other issues with this clean renewable energy source that the U.S. Department of Energy claims can provide 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030 and reduce projected emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, by 25 percent.

Just last week, the Iroquois County Board significantly increased its setback of 1,500 feet between turbines and houses of nonparticipating landowners — those without a wind turbine lease.

The new setback is now 12 times the rotor diameter, which would be about 3,936 feet for a 1.7-megawatt GE turbine with a rotor diameter of 328 feet.

Iroquois also approved noise limits on the turbines, along with a requirement that wind farm developers prove shadow flicker would not affect nonparticipating landowners who live within one mile of a turbine.

Residents within the California Ridge wind project voiced their concerns along with Iroquois County residents facing the same issues.

Iroquois County Board member Charles Alt voted for the changes to the county's wind ordinance. He said they were prompted by complaints from residents in the county, not only about noise from the turbines but also other issues, like road agreements with the wind companies.

Alt said there were also residents who argued against the changes, including landowners in the Wellington and Hoopeston area who have the possibility of leasing their land for a future wind farm development. Alt said that development may not happen now due to the changes.

"It seems like the controversy on wind energy is growing," he said, explaining that those with wind turbines on their property generally are okay with them, but others who live nearby are having issues. "We have to think about everybody in the county."

Alt said the effects of wind turbine noise and other issues is still a big question. But there have been residents from within all the area wind farms voicing concerns with noise and other issues. He said not all their stories are the same, but they are close, and he can't believe they are all making it up. He said the wind companies disagree with such claims, and board members have challenged them for proof.

"And I can't see why we should OK something that draws this much controversy from people who don't have anything to do with them," Alt said.

In Vermilion County, the board increased its setbacks two years ago from 1,000 feet to 1,200 feet. A proposal earlier this year from county board member Chuck Nesbitt to increase the setbacks even more, to 1,320 feet from a property line and 2,640 feet from the closest primary structure, did not gain support from an independent panel, which recommended no action to the county board.

But residents from the California Ridge project have not given up and continue to lobby Vermilion County for increased setbacks. Vermilion County officials argue that a 1,320 feet setback would eliminate such large sections of land from consideration for a wind turbine that it would effectively be a ban on future wind farm development.

Online for about a year now, the California Ridge wind project was developed by Chicago-based Invenergy and is the first wind farm in Vermilion and Champaign counties, stretching from western Vermilion, where there are 104 turbines, mostly in Pilot Township, to eastern Champaign, where there are 30 turbines.

Mostly rural, Pilot has a population of about 580 people, and many homes have wind turbines nearby. But more than a dozen residents there, including Lomax, the Hartkes, the Mileses and Isabelli, have put up vinyl signs on their properties with messages railing against the wind farm. One says "Welcome to wind turbine hell; home of the noisy turbines."

Earlier this year in response to wind turbine complaints, the Vermilion County Board organized a public hearing. Residents packed the Potomac Grade School gym. About half of the comments championed the construction jobs and income for local business from the wind farm in addition to rebuilt local roads and local property tax revenue it will generate for schools and other taxing bodies. But the other half of the comments came from the Hartkes, Lomaxes and other residents upset about noise, shadow flicker and other issues.

The controversy doesn't seem to be swirling in Champaign County, where the setback requirement is the same as in Vermilion: a minimum 1,200 feet from a wind turbine to the house of a nonparticipating landowner. John Hall, Champaign County planning and zoning director, said no one has lobbied Champaign County to increase its setback. And, he said, he is anticipating an application for a new wind farm development in northwestern Champaign County.

And more wind farms are a possibility in Vermilion, too.

Apex Clean Energy Inc., based in Virginia, already has a permit for its planned development in northwestern Vermilion County, called the Hoopeston wind project. Dahvi Wilson with Apex Clean Energy said the company is in the final stages of development for Hoopeston Wind, but there are still some key milestones that need to be met before the company determines a construction date and the number and size of turbines.

And Invenergy has plans for a phase two development of its California Ridge farm and does not have a permit yet. Alissa Krinsky, director of communications with Invenergy, said increased setbacks could have a real impact on those plans.

With more than 40 wind projects online, Illinois ranks fourth in the nation in the number of utility-scale wind turbines and total megawatts installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In 2012 alone, Illinois added more than 823 megawatts, ranking it fifth in the nation in the most new capacity added last year, but the percentage of Illinois' electricity provided by wind in 2012 was still under 4 percent, according to the association.

Vermilion County officials argue that in the absence of county-wide zoning, the county cannot legally deny a property owner from leasing his land, which would be the case if setbacks were increased to the point that wind farm development would not be possible.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said the county has no zoning, no land-use policy and is not a home rule county, so if the county increases setbacks significantly, effectively banning wind farm development, then the county has, in effect, created a zoning ordinance and has taken property rights away from property owners and could be legally liable.

But Lomax, the Hartkes, Isabelli and Rankin-area residents Darrell and Kim Cambron have continued to attend Vermilion County Board meetings and publicly make their case, reiterating their complaints about noise and other issues, and calling for increased setbacks from property lines, not the foundations of their houses.

"To have a current setback of 1,200 feet, I guess they think we don't play outside, swim in the pool, ride our horses, work in our shops — all closer to the turbine than the foundation of our home," Isabelli said.

Jean and David Miles said there is a whining or humming noise when the turbines are repositioning. Sometimes there's a clunking or thumping from the rotating of the turbines, according to the Miles family and Isabelli, in addition to the constant whooshing from the blades turning. Lomax said the severity depends on the direction of the wind and the position of the turbines. David and Jean Miles said depending on the blade position and revolution speed, the turbines can sound like a jet engine. The Hartkes also compare the noise to an airplane in their backyard or diesel engines running.

The Miles family and Hartkes said the noise affects their sleep, and causes anxiety and headaches.

The Hartkes said they notified their local Invenergy representative and began reporting all noise events to the company, documenting the noise and weather conditions, hoping it would help Invenergy determine what conditions were causing the problem. The Hartkes said that within the first four months of California Ridge going operational, Invenergy shut down multiple turbines at their request on more than 50 occasions. The Hartkes said it was an improvement, but it still left the family sleep deprived and suffering from a number of health issues. Invenergy told them, the Hartkes said, to find contractors and get quotes for soundproofing their house. But the Hartkes did some research, and they said they learned it's not possible to soundproof against the type of "noise/infrasound produced by wind turbines." In May, the Hartkes said, Invenergy stopped turning off turbines at their request.

"The negative impact of this project on our family life, health and ability to live in our home and enjoy our property has been severe," the Hartkes said in a statement. Ted Hartke said the family has retained an attorney.

In 2009, Dr. Nina Pierpont's book, "Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment," was released. According to Pierpont, wind turbines emit infrasound — sound waves with frequencies below the lower limit of human hearing — and low-frequency noises that cause various symptoms in people, which she called Wind Turbine Syndrome.

There is conflicting research and medical opinions on whether wind turbines cause health issues, and in 2009, the American Wind Energy Association, the wind industry's main trade group, and the Canadian Wind Energy Association brought together a panel of professionals from a variety of disciplines to review current literature on the perceived health effects of wind turbines and concluded that subaudible, low-frequency sound and infrasound from wind turbines do not present a risk to human health.

According to the wind energy association, noise generated by wind turbines are in the range of 35 to 45 decibels at a distance of 1,148 feet, almost the same distance as Vermilion County's setback of 1,200 feet. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a noise level of 40 decibels is equal to a running stream or refrigerator humming. The Hartkes, Miles family and Isabelli said the noise from the turbines is well beyond the noise their refrigerators make.

Krinsky said an independent noise study is in the process of being completed at the California Ridge wind project, but did not elaborate on the study.

"We are committed to compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and look forward to continuing to produce clean, renewable energy as a key economic participant in the community," she said.

Vermilion County is not the only county, and Illinois is not the only state, where Invenergy and other wind companies are clashing with residents over noise and other complaints. Just last month, a man in Oregon filed a $5 million lawsuit against Invenergy over noisy wind turbines claiming problems with sleep, headaches and other health issues.

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marvstic wrote on September 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

Apparently the Iroquois County board cares about the health, safety, and quality of life of their residents.  Money comes in second instead of first.  Vermilion County would do well to look to the north!

Mike Barnard wrote on September 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

Wind farms don’t harm human health, anti-wind campaigners do. 19 reviews world wide of all of the available research and complaints by credible, independent groups have cleared wind farms of health impacts.  Meanwhile, studies in the UK, Australia and New Zealand point the finger at anti-wind lobbyists spreading health fears and jacking up stress.  http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/17/wind-farms-dont-make-people-sick-so-why-the-complaints/


Wind farms don’t harm property values: six major studies in the US and UK of almost 100,000 property transactions confirm this. As with health complaints, anti-wind campaigners whipping up fears are responsible for minor lulls before wind farms become operational, with properties often accruing value faster near operational wind farms.  This makes sense: more jobs and more tax-revenue funded services make wind farm regions more attractive to people. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/19/property-values-evidence-is-that-if-wind-farms-do-impact-them-its-positively/


Pierpoint’s wind turbine syndrome is more wind than syndrome. Completely lacking in methodology, self-selected study group that blamed wind turbines for their ailments, no medical history, no peer review, self-published by the vanity press she set up for the purpose and so intent on leading the witnesses that it fell of a cliff.  http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/28/wind-turbine-syndrome-is-more-wind-than-syndrome/

Wind turbine setbacks of 350-400 meters are completely safe in all but the tiniest fraction of cases. The World Health Organization sets 50 dB of regular and prolonged night time noise that cannot be mitigated via closed windows and white noise generators as the level at which sleep loss becomes a concern. 40 dB, the level that Ontario’s Regulation 359/09 regulations make the norm 99% of the time for 99% of properties, is a good cautionary level. 35 dB, the level set in a couple of Australian states, is even more conservative.

SWAT wrote on September 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Mr Barnard spinning again. The last place anyone should go is to your site for information about adverse effects of wind. Try talking to some people who are affected instead of callously dismissing them. The only people who say there is no problem are those in the wind industry and who stand to gain massively from the subsidy payments. When there is finally justified recognition of people's suffering there will be lawsuits - I hope those who are to blame are well insured. 

As for property prices get out of your office and go and knock on doors and ask people what is happening to them. Estate agents know it is a problem and so do those who try and sell. You may have been a master spinner once but I'm afraid the game is up. Wind is over - it's just a question of when.

How close are the turbines you live near, how high and how many?

I mean you must live really close to be such an authority on their effects.

Teresa FBach wrote on September 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Mike Barnard lives in Singapore.  He's not even in North America, yet he feels compelled to tell people who live on the other side of the world, that the negative health effects they're feeling are all in their heads.


Teresa FBach wrote on September 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm

When you have lived next door (within half a mile) of an industrial electrical generation wind facility for at least 6 months Mike Barnard, then you can comment.  Until that time, you should take your biased wind opinions and shove them.  I've seen your comments all over the world promoting the greatness of wind.  Thankfully everywhere you go you are trounced by the people who actually live next to these industrial blights. Someone who has that much time on his hands clearly is making money in some way off of this scam.  I don't believe for a second you defend these things from the goodness of your heart -- if you have one.

caseih2388 wrote on September 15, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Wind Turbines Harm Human Health Due To Sleep Deprivation:  Mike, it is quite interesting that documentation from the World Health Organization was presented as evidence at a public hearing in Iroquois County before the revised wind farm ordinance became law stating that nighttime noise levels should be 30 db, and likely less than that if the noise is very low frequency.  Also studies were entered as evidence from Europe and Australia showing the damage to ones health from sleep deprivation caused by wind farm noise. And nothing in the studies showed that it was permissible to create more noise (white noise) to drowned out the low frequency wind turbine noise.  But testimony was presented at the public hearing by the wind farm advocates that was later decisively proven false.  Anyone can state claims that are untrue and this public forum gives you that opportunity.  I suppose you believe if you state false information often enough people will accept it as truth.

fairwind wrote on September 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm

If you are one of the last few individuals who do not believe, or is still on the fence regarding the truth behind irresponsible Industrial Wind Turbine placement, please visit:

Fair Wind Energy - Website


We have spent hours and hours collecting factual information - not sponsored by third parties (pro or anti), that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that real people experience real issues. Sadly, more and more stories are added each day. The content on our website has been collected to help decision makers make responsible decisions based on history, facts and testimony. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Responsibility matters.


Mike Barnard wrote on September 16, 2013 at 9:09 am

Since another myth has reared it's ugly head, another debunking is required.

Infrasound produced by wind farms is harmless; humans evolved with infrasound and wind farms produce less than waves on a beach, yet beach front property is in major demand. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/20/humans-evolved-with-infrasound-is-there-any-truth-to-health-concerns-about-it/

Regarding torture, I was waterboarded once as part of a training exercise with the Canadian military. I find it offensive that someone would compare wind turbine noise to torture. Perhaps I'm oversensitive. Perhaps all of the people who really have been tortured as opposed to merely annoyed are just too sensitive too.

And as Ms. Bach seems to have decided that I'm in the pocket of the wind industry, it's useful to say that that is complete BS and provide a link to my background and clear and traceable statements showing that it is false: http://barnardonwind.com/about/



SWAT wrote on September 16, 2013 at 11:09 am

You're becoming boring now Mr Barnard.

Once again how close do you live to industrial turbines, how many and how big?

If you are such an authority on the effects of living with them tell us about your situation......otherwise I suggest you keep your offensive comments out of these forums. People ARE suffering whether you like it or not and to suggest otherwise is insensitive, callous and arrogant. You are behaving like many in the wind industry. People don't matter, the environment doesn't matter, wildlife doesn't matter - as long as they can get their grubby hands on the extortionate subsidies on offer for an unreliable and inefficient energy source. More and more are seeing it for what is and are not prepared to put up with the scam any more.

I am puzzled why you are so pro wind if you are not, as you imply,  involved in the industry. Perhaps you just like looking at turbines! In which case offer to buy someone's property, that is near turbines, for market value so they can move away and live in peace and you can live happily ever after with your spinning friends - or not as they are the majority of the time.

jannie12 wrote on September 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I find in interesting that when setbacks are often discussed it's from the foundation of the neighboring home & not the property line -- which means that the neighboring wind lease holder and/or wind company has stolen my property for their use of noise pollution.  By counting my property as part of the setback (my yard) this is now part of the industrial wind project.   I can no longer have the complete enjoyment of my land.   And, no, I do not want the wind companies "hush: money

I find it interesting that if there is no noise pollution low frequency or otherwise -- why--- people living in Ontario Canada, Australia, and parts of the US who are neighbors to wind projects have chosen to abandon their homes.

I find it interesting that property owners - who may "lease their land" are opposed to the increased setback. Have they read the leases - The wind company will put the IWT where they want it -- sure the sales guy will tell you we'll put it over there by your neighbor - but don't be too sure; and do you wonder why it includes stuff about noise and shadow flicker etc. and you can't say a thing about it. In our area there were people getting lease options that never would end up with a wind turbine & lease money - they end up being the "neighbor", but fought hard during the controversy. 

I don't know what annoys me most about the wind industry - the affect on rural areas, their asking for the 30 year kill permit of eagles or the fact my taxpayer money props up the inefficiency of this industry.

Mary Kay Barton wrote on September 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm

For those interested in learning about the reality of the industrial wind issue as it is occurring throughout rural areas in the U.S., and worldwide - especially as it relates specifically to Invenergy, please read: 

NY Wind Wars - Hiding the Facts (PTC Allows Invenergy to Desecrate), at:


Regarding comments being posted by Mike Barnard -- people need to be aware that Mr. Barnard is apparently working to carpet the USA and Canada with 450 - 500 foot-tall giant "Bird Cuisinarts" from his post in Singapore - where he works for IBM. 

I have directly asked Mr. Barnard if he would buy and move his family into a home within a sprawling industrial wind factory - with its' 500-foot-tall machines and their 7-ton blades spinning overhead, only hundreds of feet from that home.  He has refused to answer the question.  Pretty much says it all, don't you think?!?

Carolyn Gerwin wrote on September 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

Wind energy is a horrendous waste of time and money.  The federal tax subsidies alone cost America (that's you, me and future generations who bear this debt load) TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.  That doesn't include the cost of new high voltage transmission lines needed to deal with the big surges from fickle wind and the need to transmit it to get it to population centers.  For this princely sum, which mostly goes to big corporations like GE and foreign investors, America now gets 4% of its electricity from wind.  That equals about 1% of our total energy portfolio.  Wind doesn't reduce our usage of oil at all, because we generate electricity with gas, coal and nuclear, not oil.  It would be FAR cheaper, greener, cleaner and nicer to residents to simply install natural gas-fired generators.  We are sitting on an ocean of natural gas, and such generators would take up a tiny footprint, require virtually no extra high power lines, do not chop up raptors and kill endangered bats, and let residents sleep at night.  Wind is so unreliable that we will have to build the gas generators anyway, so wind is a TOTAL waste.  The government should not be spending money we don't have on a technology that doesn't work and in fact destroys the habitat for both humans and wildlife. 

Carolyn Gerwin wrote on September 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

Obviously, Mr. Barnard did not actually study the latest LBNL report, or he would have noticed that table 7 proves there is a 28% value loss within 1 mile of turbines.

1,198 sales in that range compared to a larger group of sales 3-10 miles from turbines is pretty hard to deny, if one is concerned about the truth.

ILIVEWITHWINDTURBINES wrote on September 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I have lived with wind turbines around my house for the last 3 years.  There are 7 in our section and 3 1500 feet from the foundation of my house.  We estimate that we have lost $100,000 in the value of our house.  My husband was transferred out of state and I did not follow him because we would now owe more on our house than it was worth.  I no longer spend time outside.  I have hired people to mow our 2 1/2 acres.  I did not bother to plant flowers this year.  The turbines are noisy and create shadow flicker.  When they first went up, we thought we could live with them because we had to.  We tried sitting on our patio for a picnic and our guests ended up leaving because we were shouting at each other over the sound of the turbines.  We decorated our Christmas tree at three in the afternoon one day to the pulsing strobe light created by the turbine blades.  This whole process has been disillusioning and depressing.  I thought local officials cared about their citizens, they don't.  They care about THE MONEY.  I thought our neighbors cared about each other, they don't.  They care about THE MONEY.  Wind turbines are an expensive hoax.  They are the equivalent of a "Vegan in Leather Shoes".  They are socially unjust, creating electricity that is 5 times the cost of convential forms of electric generation.  What they do generate is MONEY for WIND COMPANIES that is paid for by taxpayers.  Walk into Whole Foods and spend your Whole Paycheck so you can feel good about yourself.  Wind Farms are just the same.  They are a hoax, exploited by people who are out to make a buck, so FEEL GOOD looking at a Wind Farm.  Fool yourself into thinking your are saving the planet, be a "Vegan in Leather Shoes", enjoy the land of the PC.... until someday, you are me.

Livinginwind wrote on September 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm

We have lived in a wind complex now since 2010.  If we only knew how much it would affect our daily lives we probably would have sold our home and farm prior to it being built.  Unless you live in one and experience it on a daily basis, you have no right to make any conclusions or assumptions based on inexperience.  What we experience daily, changes daily, and no two days are ever the same.  Not only do we have shadow flicker almost 5 months out of the year but the noise is so bad in our home with the house closed up at that you cannot sleep at night.  Even when you are sleeping at night, you can be awaken by the moon crossing in front of the blades for what is know as moon flicker.  I am sure there are not too many people that would enjoy be awaken by this as nothing keeps it out of the rooms just like shadow flicker.  We live with "jet rumbling" noises inside and outside our home daily. All the studies in the world will not conclude the same results as if the turbine was put up.  We were told by the company from their study that we only had 20 hours of flicker a year.  Well, with video, I was able to show them we had that amount of flicker in just two weeks in the Fall.  So, they redid their study, came back with 43 hours of flicker.  To make a long story short after being able to prove them wrong, they said I could have 80+ hours a year.  Because the county did nothing to protect the residents prior them the wind turbines being put up, we have no recourse against the developer.  So sad.  We have health issues within our home that the noise and flicker have made worse.  Does the county want to start being responsable for health bills?  You do not know what health issues people already have let alone know what they will experience down the road from these complexes. These companies are only about money and not helping the residents that live in them.  It is your responsibility as a board to protect the health, safety and well being of the residents in your county.  They also stated they do not throw ice.  But when they were asked to come out due to ice throws, then all of a sudden signs went up.  So, now when you travel down the county road, you have to be aware of flying ice?  In my opinion, even if the set back was a mile, it would not be far enough away.  We have shadow flicker from two turbines that are just over a mile from our home.  We currently get flicker from 6 turbines and we have 86 around our home.