Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 22, 2014

Broken blades worry residents

Latest break caused by lightening strike doesn't concern commissioners

By Martin Slagter Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Two broken turbine blades in the past three months have citizens in Tipton County concerned about the safety of the Wildcat Wind Farm.

Monday’s Tipton County Board of Commissioners meeting provided a forum for residents to speak out, some in favor of shutting the wind farm down, others stating the latest blade break, caused by lightning, isn’t cause for concern.

The latest blade break on April 2 has reopened debate on wind turbines in Tipton County, where 125 turbines operate in the northeast corner of the county near Windfall.

Board of Commissioners President Phil Heron said the latest blade break doesn’t provide any new evidence to suggest the turbines pose an “imminent danger” to residents.

“If someone can show me that there’s imminent danger, that somebody’s life was in serious danger, then we would shut it down,” he said. “Show me where anybody has gotten hurt or injured on any wind [turbine] road.”

Resident Stan Jones said it is the responsibility of the commissioners to step in if future blade breaks put residents in danger.

“The purpose of the [board] is to identify and clarify the needs of the people and ensure the county responds to those needs,” he said.

If the turbines were determined to be dangerous, Tipton County Attorney John Brooke said, commissioners would have the legislative power to shut the wind farm down.

Safety is the latest aspect of the wind farms to be brought under the microscope. Citizens argued another blade break could cause a serious safety risk for farmers, who will spend more time out in the fields this summer.

Resident Heidi Freeman said there are too many questions regarding the safety of the turbines, in addition to the noise issues that continue to plague some farm owners.

“The safety of these people is of importance,” she said. “There will be farmers out in those fields soon. It’s a known fact, even from E.ON, that some places wouldn’t be affected as much as others.”

E.ON has not yet conducted studies on the first turbine blade break, which occurred on Feb. 1, Heron said, but a large crane that will be needed to take down the turbine is on its way to Tipton County.

In the meantime, some residents who live near the wind farm believe they aren’t being represented fairly, based the opinions expressed by the Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development and others opponents of wind farm development.

“I am tired of people that don’t live anywhere near our wind farm trying to convince people of what our reality is,” resident April Rutherford said. “They simply do not know, as they do not live among them.”

Board of Commissioners Vice President Joe VanBibber said commissioners are not talking about shutting down the wind farm. Any enforcement over whether the farm stays up would fall on the Tipton County Plan Commission, he added.

Martin Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8570, martin.slagter@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @slagterm.