Informational meeting provides answers, sparks more questions
A lengthy informational meeting was held last night at the Wayne Fire Hall from 6 - 7:30 p.m. The public had been invited to come ask questions specific to the NextEra Sholes Wind Energy Center slated for construction during the incoming year.
Set up as a question and answer session, Dr. Chuck Parker, a professor at WSC and seasoned moderator, asked audience members to write their questions on a notecard and pass them back to him. This format enabled the most amount of questions to be asked, keeping the answers direct and focused on the topic at hand. The panel of experts were not only NextEra employees but a UNL Extension agent and several independent contractors.
Doug Nelson, an area farmer who opposes the wind farm introduced the project manager Phil Clement as a person he has had many passionate debates with and also as someone he respects. Nelson asked for a professional and productive discussion to kick off the Q&A session.
Questions such as the impact of the turbines on wildlife, on hunting, on livestock and other agriculture aspects were asked and answered in part by various members of the panel as were questions about the health and safety of those in the immediate vicinity.
According to panel members, livestock and wildlife are undeterred by the towers. A wildlife biologist out of Lincoln on the panel discussed how there are studies conducted, both pre and post construction and while most turbines are going in areas that aren't considered habitat, those that do have been monitored and there has been no impact seen. The same can be said for livestock, in fact one panel member said many areas with cattle have seen the herds follow the shadow cast by the turbine to stay cool in the summer.
An environmental health specialist and a representative from an environmental firm with a speciality in light and sound discussed the health and safety factors brought up regarding the flicker and noise experienced by those immediately closest to the towers. According to the environmental health specialist, the shadow flicker -- what happens when the sun and the tower are aligned in a position that casts a shadow onto a structure as the blades move -- amounts to no more than 30 hours a year for those closest to a tower. This is a self-imposed regulation NextEra is following even though there is no zoning to keep them from doing otherwise. He also assured that the flicker speed is simply not fast enough to cause seizures or other health issues such as migraines.
The environmental firm representative discussed the sound coming from the turbines, giving ballpark figures for the amount of noise. While there are a lot of factors involved, the noise level at the minimum setback NextEra allows (1,400 ft) is roughly 50 decibels on the high end and gradually drops as distance increases. Sound equivalents to 50 decibels would be similar to having a conversation in your home with someone or your refrigerator running. In comparison, a passing diesel truck or snow blower is roughly 85 decibels and a library setting or bird calls registers around 30 decibels.
Numerous other questions were asked and can be read about in next the full story on the meeting in week's paper.