The Don Quixote Club

September 30, 2011

Culver, Green, MCEDC

Culver, Green

I have been interested to watch the various happenings regarding the wind farm proposed by NextEra in southern Marshall County.  My position on the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) Board has given me the opportunity to be aware of this from early on.

I must say that I have been impressed by the way Marshall County officials have approached this. I have not necessarily been pleased with the county position that we should remain an agricultural based county, but using the wind farm model as one way of promoting that is effective.  They did their due diligence on the issue before creating the zoning ordinance changes that allowed these farms.  Marshall County officials met with county officials from counties with wind farms to review their ordinances and discuss what they thought they did right and what they did wrong. Our new county ordinance section that covers wind farms is an amalgamation and improvement on the ordinances of other counties that preceded it.  I think they have done a good job.

Again from my interactions with MCEDC, I know that there are at least three wind farm companies considering sites in Marshall County.  For months now I have known the name of one of them.  (I just heard the name of one of the others for the first time last week.)   I have seen announcements and attended presentations by one of them.  I only know one of them that has tried to educate the public.  In all cases that is NextEra.  I am in no position to vouch for them and what they are doing other than to say that they are the only company that is being open about it.  To the best of my knowledge, they are the only one that is an American company too.

I went to the presentation by the Concerned Citizen’s of Southern Marshall County (See their website here) that was held at the Culver Elementary School Gymnasium.  While most of the information was interesting, I was disappointed where exaggerations were made.  Unfortunately those exaggerations made all of the information suspect.  An example of this was the discussion of the heights.  The statements made at the gymnasium meeting were as follows: The proposed windmills are to be 450′ tall.  That is equal to a 45 story building.  That is taller than the skyline of Indianapolis which you can see from over ten miles away.  It didn’t take much of an Internet search (here) to find that the tallest building in Indianapolis is the Chase Tower.  It is 48 stories tall.  It is 810′ tall.  I don’t question that 450′ is a damned tall structure that will be seen from miles away, but why exaggerate it.

As many of you probably know, I am a board member on the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Fund (LMEF).  I have been on the Fund board for over ten years and have served on the council for six.  Because of my position on the MCEDC board, some felt that I had a conflict of interest in this issue, so I have chosen to recuse myself from LMEF votes on this issue.  That has not particularly mattered since the votes passed unanimously sans my vote.  I have participated in the discussion and have been disturbed by the turn it has taken.  To my knowledge this is the first time that the Environmental Fund or Council has taken a position such as this without doing due diligence back up with independent consultants such as J.F. New & Associates.  I was particularly disturbed by the recent email that went out from the fund stating that “we must not knowingly cause harm to any living thing.”  Really?  We have always promoted being good stewards of Lake Maxinkuckee as a resource, but statements like that cause us to drift dangerously towards the environmental whacko fringe.

I have taken a position through MCEDC that wind energy is a positive economic resource for Marshall County to use. As a member of LMEF, it appears that I am on the other side of this issue.  Before the LMEF meeting I drove to White County and trespassed, walking right up to the base of one of the windmills.  I was unmoved…

I really have no personal stake in this issue.  I don’t find the the windmills visually objectionable, but I completely understand the position of those that do.  I have to question some of the other things being dragged in and exaggerated to bolster their point though.  I will continue to read the information from both sides with interest.

Credits to xkcd web comics for the wind turbine comic at the top of the page.

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