Commissioners hold off on wind turbine decision

Posted by: Laura Wilson


The Lancaster County Board of Commissioners has a difficult task ahead of them as it tries to determine how loud wind turbines can be in the county, while still being safe for nearby residents.

Tuesday, commissioners gathered public feedback on two different proposals in front of them.

The planning commission board has proposed a 50 dB maximum, dropping to 42 dB at night—which has prompted some safety concerns.

"I understand the need for renewable energy, but at what cost are we willing to pay for it?  This is not agriculture, this is commercial wind development, and should be zoned accordingly,” said Cortland resident Barry Alder.

Currently, wind turbines are required to sit at least 1,000 feet away from houses or units on neighboring property, and sound levels must cap off at 35 dB.

The Lancaster Health Department has recommended the levels be increased to 40 dB during the day, and 37 dB at night.

But those in favor of the renewable energy source say that’s still too low.

"This is a zoned agricultural activity and I think a 50 decibel limit would be a reasonable limit.  It’s not a residential area, it’s zoned,” said Hallam resident Greg Schwaninger.

“The health department’s limits are certainly lower than any other noise standards for agricultural zones in the county,” explained Milford resident Mary Harding.

“I do believe that what the health department is recommending would result in a ‘no build’ zone,” Harding added.

But Cindy Chapman, who spoke on behalf of over a dozen rural Lancaster and Gage County landowners, says maybe a "no build" zone is good thing in populated Nebraska counties.

“We are asking for safe sound limits and adequate setback distances for industrial wind turbines only,” said Chapman.

“If safe sound limits prevent wind facilities in this county, it just confirms that the population density here is too great,” she added.

The Board of Commissioners opted to give itself another week to take public comment into consideration, after 36 people signed up to speak Tuesday night.

It will make a final decision on October 27th.