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Merrillville examines wind turbine issues

Updated: May 19, 2013 7:44AM



MERRILLVILLE — Residents remonstrating about the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 697’s proposed wind turbine took their concerns to a Merrillville Town Council’s study session Wednesday night.

Hobart City Council President Jerry Herzog, in whose district the 159-foot tall wind turbine, training center and offices at 73rd Avenue and Mississippi Street would be adjacent, said he accompanied IBEW members to two wind turbine farms in the Lafayette area last week to observe the turbines in action. He was encouraged by the observations.

Herzog said the noise level was low at close range with little to no vibration in the vicinity. The group also had the opportunity to talk to businesses around the farm, who said the turbines don’t cause any problems.

“They said maybe twice a month, they see a shadow flicker,” he said.

Jeff Ban, principal for DVG Group Inc. and the engineer for IBEW, said the union’s concerns are the same as those of the residents: public health and safety. The group, for example, measured the noise level during their trip at 64 and 68 decibels. Merrillville’s noise ordinance allows for noise at 60 decibels, Ban said.

“When we tested the 300-foot and 400-foot turbines, we heard ambient background noise,” Ban said. “We think the noise issue has been properly addressed.”

Other issues included shadow flicker, or the shadow cast by the turning blade; the possibility of ice accumulating on the blades; and blade failure. Blade ice can be combatted by silicone paint; as well, a weather sensor will be installed to shut down the turbine. And no complaints were lodged about shadow flicker.

“(Turbine manufacturer) NPS said there have not been any catastrophic failures, but even if it fell, it would fall on IBEW property,” Ban said.

As for setbacks, Ban said the town code’s setbacks for cell towers would be adequate for the turbine.

“We want to be a good neighbor, and we will try to do a good job,” Ban said.

The Hobart residents remained skeptical.

“I would like to be open-minded,” said David Kreuger. “But I want to know why the EPA says there should be a 1,500-foot setback.”

The Merrillville Town Council will consider the turbine at its Tuesday night meeting.



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