Commission unanimously approves term sheet, site plan
Following months of meetings and discussion, the term sheet and site plan for the proposed Soldier Creek Wind Farm in southern Nemaha County were unanimously approved by the Nemaha County Commission on Wednesday, July 31, at the Community Building in Seneca.
The documents – and project as a whole – have created some heated debates for many months, all while county residents remained unsure of how the commissioners – Gary Scoby, Tim Burdiek and Dennis Henry – would vote in the matter.
More than 100 county residents and NextEra Energy representatives were present during the meeting when commissioners gave their approval of the project, which is to be located in the southern half of Nemaha County. The project is supposed to house up to 132 wind turbines, which includes 120 primary sites and 12 alternate sites.
The commissioners released the initial site plan and term sheet on Tuesday, July 16, but after the residents noticed some discrepancies in the site plan, and some holes in the term sheet, changes needed to be made. Corrections, changes and additions to the term sheet were being made up until a mere 18 hours before the vote. The commissioners received the final term sheet on Tuesday afternoon, July 30.
The updated term sheet that was approved can be found at SabethaHerald.com.
The commissioners did not state during the meeting their reasons for approving the term sheet and site plan. Following media requests for comment, the commissioners stated they would release a joint statement.
On Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 6, the following statement was released.
“The Nemaha County Commissioners unanimously approved the Soldier Creek Wind Project subject to the review and approval of the Definitive Agreements outlined in the Term Sheet. Kansas law allows a land owner the right to use their land for the production of wind energy (KSA 58-2272(b)). Those owning the majority of land within the footprint of the Project entered into leases with the developer. For the past nine months, the Commissioners have engaged in public discussion at their weekly meetings. They have received and reviewed information both for and against the project, and listened to over eight hours of comments at two separate public comment sessions. After reviewing the information and comments, the Commissioners concluded there was insufficient evidence to take away the rights of land owners in Nemaha County. The Commissioners’ conclusion is consistent with the majority of jurisdictions that have reviewed wind projects.”
Following the vote, the county’s hired wind farm attorney, James Neeld, gave a presentation explaining to Nemaha County residents the rationale behind items in the term sheet and site plan.
Roughly 75 percent of the those present for the vote did not stay for Neeld’s presentation – including the commissioners who resumed their meeting at the Nemaha County Courthouse. Topics addressed in Neeld’s presentation were Kansas law, setbacks, health and safety, sound and infrasound, shadow flicker, ice throw, economics, decommissioning and property values.
Neeld said that when you start discussing any project, it should begin with the discussion of the law and what binds the commissioners
Neeld referenced Kansas Statute K.S.A. 58-2272 (b) – which gives the land owner the right to use land for wind production – saying since Nemaha County is unzoned, wind production cannot be prohibited by the county.
Neeld said that in the term sheet, the hottest topic was setbacks.
“In negotiations with the developer, we didn’t get everything we wanted or desired,” Neeld said. “I doubt if you ask the developer, they would say they got everything they wanted or desired.”
According the Neeld, following the public hearings in April, he was directed by the commissioners to get the largest setback he could, over 2,500 feet was his direction.
“At the end of the day, we traded distance for other things in the term sheet,” Neeld said. “This isn’t verified, but we believe this is the largest setback in the United States. If it’s not the largest it’s pretty darn far back, as far as compared with other setbacks.”
Neeld presented a table, which shows Nemaha County setback distances, as compared to average setback distances in Kansas. According to Neeld, the Kansas average for non-participating property lines is 500 feet, while Nemaha County is 600 feet. His table also showed that the setback distances for public roads were at 1.1 times turbine height for both the Kansas average and Nemaha County.
Neeld’s table also said that the average Midwest setback requirement was 1,250 feet from non-participants and the largest Midwest setback requirement was 2,500 feet from non-participants. Neeld’s presentation showed at the Nemaha County setback distance is at least 3,000 feet from non-participants with the exception of seven turbines. Those turbines and their distances are: No. 27, 2,983 feet; No. 28, 2,787 feet; No. 22, 2,972 feet; No. 40, 2,558 feet; No. 42, 2,698 feet; No. 43, 2,251 feet; and Alternate No. 7, 2,882 feet.
During the presentation, Neeld announced that the non-participating landowners near these seven turbines had come to an agreement with NextEra and there were no longer any turbines closer than 3,000 feet to non-participating landowners.
In the detailed map that was released by request last month, turbine No. 32 was within the 2,000 feet buffer zone. On Tuesday, Aug. 6, Neeld confirmed that turbine No. 32 had been removed completely from the map.
Health and Safety
As for health, safety and welfare, Neeld said that wind farms are not inherently dangerous to the general population. He stated that only a small percentage of the articles that can be found on the internet are critically peer-reviewed studies, meaning that people who have no opinion on the topic have reviewed the study.
Sound and Infrasound
Neeld said there is no conclusive evidence about sound and infrasound on health. According to the approved term sheet, a sound limit of 50 dBa has been set for non-participating and 55 dBa for participating.
“Turbines at 1,000 feet or greater from homes meet ANSI standards for low-frequency noise in bedroom, classrooms, hospitals and ANSI standards for thresholds of annoyance for low frequency noise,” Neeld said.
Neeld said there is no conclusive evidence as to effects on health, and the industry standard is 30 hours per year and Nemaha County is not to exceed a cumulative 30 hours per year.
Neeld said that the recommended setback from G.E. for ice throw is 1.1 times the turbine height. He also stated in his presentation that the maximum ice throw with high wind speeds of 12 m/s is 738.19 feet.
“GE also recommends other risk mitigation, such as appropriate setbacks and turbine deactivation,” Neeld said.
The total payment to the county will be in the amount of $33,930,000.
Neeld said that decommissioning will commence upon the expiration of the 30-year term.
“On May 1, 2020, or beginning of project, NextEra will deliver to Nemaha County a bond or letter of credit naming Nemaha County as beneficiary,” Neeld’s presentation said. “A third party engineer will determine the restoration security amount, and it will be issued by a credit worthy party of financial institution that is acceptable to Nemaha County.”
Neeld also presented four different studies that showed no evidence that property values decrease because of wind turbines.
After Neeld’s presentation, he answered many questions from those present.
To listen to the full audio from Neeld’s presentation, please email us at [email protected].com.Soldier Creek Term Sheet - Redline 7.30.19