BigWind Setbacks: Safety First unless youre a wind developer

Does BigWind really care about YOUR safety? What about the safety of the farmer or kids on snowmobiles?

Last month, Ohio infuriated wind proponents by passing Senate bill 310, a bill that delays the states renewable electricity standard for two years and eliminates the requirement that half of the renewables mandate be met with in-state resources.

Within days of SB310 passing, Ohio Governor John Kasich approved a change to the safety setback distances for wind turbines. Under the new law, setbacks will now be measured at the property line of the nearest adjacent property as opposed to the wall of a nearby home. In practice, this will require minimum distances of at least 1,300 feet from property lines to each turbine base.

Wind developers and Ohios media cried foul over due process claiming the legislature gave no warning of the setback rule change or opportunity for testimony. They insisted the provision was anti-wind driven by coal and oil interests intent on destroying the economics of large-scale wind and called on the governor to veto the change.

Industry Setback Recommendations

For decades, the wind industry has advanced the notion that these massive spinning structures can safely be erected a few hundred feet from where people live and gather.

The industry’s preferred setback has been 1.1x to 1.5x the height of the tower (including the blade) which was derived from the fall-zone of the tower. We saw variations on this over the years beginning in California, that measured as much as 3-4x the total tower height. In general, there was no consideration in the setback distances for noise nor did the 1.1 to 1.5x setback adequately address ice/blade throw….

However, according to Iberdrola’s Emergency Plan written for Groton Wind employees and released this year, “shedding ice may be thrown a significant distance as a result of the rotor spinning or wind blowing the ice fragments.”

GE Wind states that rotating turbine blades may propel ice fragments up to several hundred meters if conditions are right depending on turbine dimensions, rotational speed and many other potential factors….

One operator of a wind installation admitted large turbines will throw a four hundred pound chunk of ice one thousand feet.

In the last 5-6 years, communities have adopted setbacks at or greater than the distance codified under Ohio law. More modern ordinances include two setback protections. The first protects property owners from ice/debris flying off the turbines. This ranges from 1300 feet to 1 mile or more away. The second setback distance is implied based on noise limits that cannot be exceeded either at the property line or the wall of an occupied building. If the noise standards are correctly applied, turbines may be erected 1.25-1.5 (or more) miles from the property line/building.

According to Mr. Palmer, the goal of public safety risk assessment is to ensure that we do not impose risks on unsuspecting members of the public. We agree!

via WindAction | Wind Setbacks: Safety First unless youre a wind developer.