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Howard County Tightens Wind Farm Restrictions

Wind turbines in Tipton County are part of E.On Climate & Renewables first phase of the Wildcat windfarm.

Correction: A previous version of this story indicated wind turbines must be set back 1,500 feet from non-leaseholders’ property. The agreement between Howard County and E.ON indicates turbines must be placed 1,500 feet from a property’s owner’s residence, not the property line.

The Howard County Commissioners are altering the requirements for a proposed wind farm in the county and putting a moratorium on future wind projects after an outcry from residents demanding the wind farm be abandoned altogether.

The commissioners announced Monday they would not sign agreements for any new wind farms until they have time to thoroughly examine the county’s ordinance. The proposal for two stages of the Wildcat Wind Farm owned by E.ON Climate and Renewables is exempt from the moratorium.

But the commissioners did put tighter restrictions on that project. The county is requiring the company set the wind turbines back 1,500 feet from a non-leaseholders’ residence. The previous agreement required about 1,050 feet. The commissioners are also mandating E.On keep noise levels down to 50 decibels for non-leaseholders and 52 decibels for leaseholders, which is down from 55 decibels.

But Howard County resident Tom Cornell says the changes are not enough and does not feel that the commissioners are paying attention to what residents want.

“They’re not really listening to us, although they had signed some kind of agreement that was pretty binding I guess,” he says.

The commissioners did, in fact, sign an agreement with E.ON, to which the changes must be added as an amendment. Howard County Commission President Tyler Moore says the county could not shirk its legal obligations without serious consequences.

“We knew the potential for liability and/or damages if we were to breach the contract could be great and in an amount that we feel would not be fiscally responsible for the taxpayers,” Moore says.

E.ON Climate and Renewable Development Director Andy Melka says his company is not getting out of the compromise unscathed. He says he cannot say exactly how much the restrictions will affect the project, but says it will cut into potential profits and will likely reduce the number of turbines in Howard County.

“Frankly we were rather disappointed that it came to this,” he says. “They’ve established some fairly strict standards that go fairly above and beyond the standards that have been established for other successful wind development in the country.”

Melka says the company has not made the final decision on whether it will build in Howard County, and company officials will have to see if it is still economically viable to do so with the new restrictions.

E.ON has agreed to the changes in principle but must still sign the agreement.

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