Expert discusses possible impacts from proposed wind energy project in southern IN

Expert discusses possible public safety impacts from proposed wind energy project in southern IN
Updated: Sep. 20, 2019 at 10:39 PM CDT
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POSEYVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Concern continues over a possible wind energy project in southern Indiana.

Dozens of wind turbines are proposed in Gibson and Posey counties. Some argue, if approved, they will sit too close to a Doppler radar operated by the National Weather Service which is an instrument that hundreds of thousands of people rely on.

Although the National Weather Service can give advice, they do not have the authority to stop this project. This decision falls at the county level.

The National Weather Service radar stands 90 feet high in Owensville, and it provides roughly 125 miles of coverage in all directions. That radar sends warning signals for severe weather, and not just in Indiana, but other parts of the Tri-State.

“We’re talking about up to 435,000 people that could be affected interference from this Doppler,” Sarah Newton, who is against the development, calculated.

A group that opposes the wind turbine project brought in Doppler radar expert Don Waddell, a physicist and former Emergency Management leader, as a featured speaker Friday evening.

"If the National Weather Service is saying moderate to high levels of interference operational impact, how can a developer say ‘relatively minor’,?” Waddell explained.

The German-based energy company, E.ON, expects to build several dozen turbines across 15,000 acres in Gibson and Posey counties. As of May, reps told us they have about 10,000 acres secured.

In August, we reached out to a company rep. who at that time told us that they can’t quite predict how the turbines could affect Doppler radar.

"Until we really know locations of wind turbines and where they are actually going in proximity to the radar, how they are placed, and so forth. So right now, we are working on getting the preliminary layout together,” Karson Rumph told us by phone in August.

Even if turbines could be turned off ahead of the storm, Waddell believes the turbine structure itself could still jeopardize the information collected by the radar.

“It’s not like one of these are close to the footprint,” Waddell said. “They’re all close to the footprint and they’re in all different directions.”

Newton tells us the E.ON rep was invited to attend the Friday meeting but could not make it.

Newton also told 14 News Gibson County does not have zoning. Posey County does and county leaders working to amend an ordinance related to the project.

A public hearing is expected to follow.

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