Renewable energy is important. As populations increase across the globe, dependence on energy sources that are finite becomes a more precarious model upon which to depend. When that model also creates substantial pollutants, it just makes sense to look for other, sustainable energy sources that don’t degrade the environment. But, for Boone County, I am not convinced that one renewable energy source—wind energy—is necessarily the right fit.
Two years ago, the then-Director of Resource Management made the County Commission aware that a resident and farm owner near Harrisburg was interested in exploring the viability of wind energy in Boone County by placing a pole on his property to test wind speeds. I had heard for many years that, because of the barrier created by the Missouri River and the bluffs, Boone County would not have sufficient wind to make such a project economically feasible.
I was therefore surprised that a company would choose Boone County as the optimum site for this project. I was also surprised by the choice, given the denser population in Boone County than in surrounding counties, as well as the higher land values here. As I told representatives of the company, I would have thought they would first consider setting up business in more sparsely populated adjacent counties, rather than in Boone.
Those three factors seemed to make Boone County less than an ideal choice for the project. The company representatives claimed that new technology somewhat mitigated the effects of the river and the bluffs and they proceeded to enter into an agreement to explore wind capacity with that initial landowner.
At about the same time, because of my position as a Board member for both the Missouri Association of Counties (MAC) and the County Commissioners Association (CCAM), I also heard from Commissioners in the northwestern part of Missouri about the wildly varying degrees of success wind energy projects had had there. In one county the project showed signs of success, infusing the local economy with jobs and creating revenue streams for entities like county school districts.
For the other county, the project met with push-back, with residents speaking of the adverse health impacts on people and animals, of lowered land values, and of hidden costs for the project itself. As concerns about the potential for a wind energy project in Boone County mounted, a meeting in Harrisburg was organized, to which the Resource Management Director and I were invited.
Residents from northwest Missouri also attended. After that meeting, both the Director and I received and sought out information about wind energy from a variety of sources, including residents in the Harrisburg area. We then asked three community members to help us collate the relevant information available about wind farms and wind energy. The County Commission then charged the Planning & Zoning Commission with the task of considering what regulations pertaining to wind energy might look like if enacted here in Boone County.
The wealth of information collected was shared with the Planning & Zoning Commission which has considered that information as it has worked to craft proposed new regulations. It is anticipated that the draft regulations will be subjected to community review before being considered for approval by the County Commission. If approved, any request for placement of a wind turbine would need to show not only the benefit of renewable energy but would have to address the impact on the community, particularly neighbors; the impact on the environment, including wildlife; the impact on the road system; and the impact of connecting the turbines to the energy grid. Consideration of these factors would be necessary when or if an application for a wind energy system were presented for approval here in Boone County.
Some people have suggested that Boone County should ban wind turbines outright. It’s my belief that such an action would only cause Boone County to become embroiled in expensive litigation filed by those who seek to deny our citizens local control.
The better approach is to utilize the tools at hand through a responsible and responsive group of citizens—the Planning & Zoning Commission—which is charged with developing and then implementing a system to guide the consideration of such a project. I believe in my fellow citizens and I believe in allowing the representatives of our citizenry to reach a logical conclusion based upon the facts at hand.