MONTICELLO — The Piatt County Board approved a 625-foot height limit for wind turbines at its meeting Wednesday, but sent shadow-flicker recommendations back to its zoning board of appeals for further consideration.
The zoning board endorsed a yearly limit of 15 hours of shadow flicker affecting nearby homes, but after hearing concerns that that was too high, the county board sent that portion of its wind-energy ordinance back.
“I think the correct number on shadow flicker should be zero on any primary residence,” said Jim Reed of DeLand, who added that he has a brother-in-law who suffers from what he termed flicker-induced epilepsy.
“I don’t think anyone should have to endure a flicker on their home or outside in their yard for any amount of hours of any part of the day,” Reed said, He noted that the zoning board’s recommendation still allows a homeowner to waive the limit.
But Alan Moore of Apex Clean Energy, which announced a plan to develop a 120-turbine wind farm in northern Piatt County, said research shows that shadow flicker does not cause any health concerns, including epilepsy.
“It’s been well documented in the literature and ... in the public hearing by a physician who studies this specifically that shadow flicker poses no health risk,” he said. “It has been very well documented that shadow flicker poses no risk of imposing seizures to the very small percentage of people who have those sensitivities to epilepsy.
“The turbines spin far too slowly to create this issue.”
He noted that the 15-hour limit represents just 0.35 percent of the total daylight hours in a year.
County board member Gail Jones, who took office in December, said she was hesitant to vote on any wind-ordinance changes without more research.
“I don’t feel comfortable voting on anything that has anything to do with wind farms right now,” Jones said. “I understand the need for it, I understand that. This is not against any company or anything, but I feel my position here is to represent the people of Piatt County.”
The county has been working on amendments to its 2009 wind ordinance for the past two years in anticipation of permits being filed by Apex.
Online audience member Steve Shreffler suggested the shadow -flicker limit be set at zero, with the chance that applicants could get it increased for individual projects through variances or the permitting process.
Flicker is the only remaining issue to be addressed in the ordinance rewrite. Already approved by the ZBA and county board are setbacks of 1.3 times the tower tip height to the nearest primary structure or 1,600 feet (whichever is greater); 1.3 times tip height to adjacent property lines or 1,000 feet; and noise limits that follow Illinois Pollution Control Board standards.
Apex has not yet filed for permits to place wind turbines for its Goose Creek Wind effort, which would include windmills in the Blue Ridge, DeLand-Weldon and Monticello school districts.