Oswald’s Quick Takes: ‘Sound’ Energy Policy

Nebraska county quiets the production of wind energy with a noise ordinance. The wind-energy issue has become as contentious as the failed Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

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Wind turbine in Gage County, about 60 miles south of Lincoln. The noise ordinance affects Lancaster County, Nebraska
Wind turbine in Gage County, Nebraska, about 60 miles south of Lincoln. The noise ordinance affects Lancaster County, Nebraska. (Photo by Jenna Vonhofe/Lincoln Journal Star)

Last week’s New York Times tells of burgeoning supplies of wind generated electricity, and how the state-owned utility TXU has made some residents an offer too good to refuse–free electricity after 9 pm.

It seems the wind blows more at night across the Texas plains, at a time when peak usage has already occurred. That made disposing of excess wind-generated energy at night a problem. So authorities offered to turn off the meter after dark, encouraging patrons to conserve energy during the day. The result has been lower energy bills for customers and a greener footprint for the Lone Star State, which now powers about 10% of its grid with wind.

That’s a far cry from another windy plains state, Nebraska, where the whish-whish of wind turbine blades will be held to impossibly low noise level limits of 40 decibels during the day and 37 decibels at night. The nighttime noise level that the Lancaster County commissioners approved last week is actually lower than noise levels in the sound-dampened meeting room where the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department proposal was discussed.

Lancaster County, the county where Nebraska’s capital city, Lincoln, is located, has been almost as polarized by wind energy as the entire Cornhusker State was by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. According to last week’s Lincoln Journal Star editorial, noise limits will effectively ban wind power if the whish of turbine blades are louder than a silent room.

Unlike Texas with its self-contained utilities virtually closed to outside sources, the Nebraska Public Power District has already had to deal with a few disgruntled customers around the state who have been threatening to go elsewhere for power.

No matter how hard the wind blows, without a significant shift, it doesn’t look as though Nebraskans will be seeing anything like the electricity bonanza Texas is enjoying, anytime soon.

Richard Oswald is a fourth-generation farmer from Langdon, Missouri. He is president of the Missouri Farmers Union.

 

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