Thursday, January 27th, 2011
By Shelley Grieshop
Couple shares life near turbines
MARIA STEIN - "It's simple. They're too close to homes."
That was the message to a packed house at the American Legion on Wednesday evening from an Illinois couple who live near a wind turbine farm.
Dave Hulthen and his wife, Stephanie, drove 5 1/2 hours from their home in DeKalb County to speak at the townhouse meeting about their ongoing experience. Thirteen of 146 turbines in the wind farm are within a mile of their 8-year-old country home.
"Two of them are 1,400 feet from my home's foundation," he said, as whispers erupted across the crowd of more than 300 people.
The Hulthens were invited to the meeting by a group of about 30 area residents who believe the wind turbines being proposed locally aren't suitable for the populated region. The group - Citizens Against Turbines (CAT) - have expressed their views at previously-held private and public meetings.
Spokesman for the group, Jim Niekamp of St. Henry, led the 2 1/2-hour meeting Wednesday evening. Another public meeting is slated for 8:30 p.m. tonight at the American Legion hall in Fort Recovery.
Niekamp said NextEra, the wind energy company proposing the 40- to 70-turbine wind farm in southern Mercer County and a portion of Auglaize County, was invited to attend the gathering but "regretfully declined."
NextEra also is the company that built the wind farm in DeKalb County.
The turbines located near the Hulthens' 4 1/2-acre property in northern Illinois became operational in December 2009, the couple said. The family has endured noise levels that wake them from their sleep, vibrations they feel within their bodies and shadow flickering that sometimes emits pulsating flashes inside their home, they said.
The rural life they loved has changed since the turbines arrived, Stephanie Hulthen said.
"We're happy people. This is just something we're going through - and you could be going through," the elementary teacher said. "We have good days and bad days."
The Hulthens, who have four children, gave a PowerPoint presentation to explain their experience and provide information they've gathered the last few years. The crowd was visibly awed when Dave Hulthen, 34, played an audio clip of noise outside his home and showed video of the shadow flicker they endure on sunny days from mid-March to mid-September.
"We've had shadow flickering up to 45 minutes some mornings," said Hulthen, a self-employed cabinetmaker who holds a degree in physics. "Right now, I feel like I'm living in an industrial park."
NextEra has offered to install blinds in their windows to combat the flickering, but the couple didn't welcome the idea of altering their lifestyle, they said. The wind company also offered to plant trees on their property, but the Hulthens said that wouldn't help their immediate situation.
Last week the Hulthens used the company's hotline to inform them that ice on the turbine blades was causing a loud "droning" noise. NextEra officials haven't returned the call, they said.
Niekamp said he initially didn't think a wind turbine farm would be a "big deal" for the area. But he soon discovered there was a lot of misinformation circulating, he said.
"I think some people believe these are just windmills, the size of a silo, and that we'll get just one or two of them," he said.
CAT members say their goal is to make information available so local residents can form educated decisions. The group's message is focused toward property owners who are contemplating land leases for the proposed wind farm project, Niekamp admitted.
According to court records in Mercer and Auglaize counties, about 2,400 acres have been leased to one of three wind companies. Some of the contracts are for the construction of turbines or test towers and others are for land easements.
Niekamp said the company would need 7,000 to 10,000 acres before applying to the Ohio Power Siting Board for permission to build 70 turbines.
"That doesn't mean they might not go forward with less, he added.
CAT members believe there's time to stop the wind farm project from becoming a reality, Niekamp said. He asked those in opposition to the project to sign the group's petition, contact their legislators and talk to their neighbors.
During his 30-minute talk, Dave Hulthen said he and his wife have developed a blog - lifewithdekalbturbines.blogspot.com - to document their life. He explained that he's not some crazy guy just trying to stir up trouble.
"I'm not a radical ... I own my own business, I'm a worship leader at my church," he said. "I just want people to know that what wind companies say and do can be two different things."
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