This story first appeared on the Feb. 23 2017 print editions of The Times-Sentinel and the Star-Argosy. Subscribe to see stories like this sooner and for stories that appear only in print. Call 316-540-0500.
By Travis Mounts
As more than four dozen Sumner County residents move forward with a lawsuit trying to stop a proposed wind farm in northern Sumner County, one county resident says living in the footprint of a wind farm isn’t bad at all.
Gary Theurer lives on the west edge of the Slate Creek Wind Farm, which stretches from a few miles south of Wellington, southeast to near Gueda Springs. The wind farm, owned by EDF Renewable Energy, became operational two years ago, in April 2015. It is a 150 megawatt wind farm with 75 wind turbines.
More than four dozen people filed a lawsuit earlier this year in opposition to the proposed Argyle Creek Wind Farm, which would be situated between Conway Springs, Clearwater, Belle Plaine and Wellington in the north-central part of Sumner County. The wind farm, if it proceeds, would be built by Invenergy, LLC, which is not related to EDF.
Theurer understands the concerns of those suing the county. He shared some of those same concerns before construction of the Slate Creek Wind Farm.
But after visiting with EDF officials, he and other family members agreed to lease ground to EDF for several turbines.
Five turbines now sit on land owned by Theurer, who is the third generation to operate the family farm. Two turbines sit south of his house, and another is across the road.
“I was very close to my dad and my grandfather. I wondered if they’d approved of what I was doing,” he said.
Theurer said he’s heard all the arguments against wind farms, including claims of health problems caused by the turbines.
“I’ve living proof, it just ain’t that way,” he said.
In hearings on the Argyle Creek Wind Farm held last year, the complaints shared most often focused on noise, flashing lights and changes to the skyline.
“I really like the looks of them,” Theurer said about the turbines near his home. He doesn’t notice the aviation lights blinking at night, because, he said, “I don’t look out the window to see if they are blinking.”
In fact, he said, the lights help serve as a nighttime landmark to help him or visitors find his home.
As for the noise, “It depends on the atmosphere,” he said.
Theurer often goes outside at night to check on cattle.
“You can kind of hear them at night,” when it’s very quiet outside. He said he doesn’t notice the sound during the day.
As for noise inside his home, Theurer said he’s never heard a thing.
“You cannot hear them (turbines) inside your house,” he said.
What he does notice on occasion is an EDF employee coming out to check on the turbines. That happens once every 10-14 days, he said. It’s less noticeable than normal traffic for residents living in town.
“Do you look out the window every time a car goes by?” he asked. “It’s no different.”
There was an increase in traffic during construction, both from construction crews and from people who came to the area to watch construction. Every once in a while he will see “tourists” who drive out to the country to watch the towers.
Theurer had high praise for the road improvements and ongoing maintenance provided by EDF.
“I’ve got township roads that are better than super highways,” he said.
Theurer, who said he supports renewable energy and conservation efforts, said the turbines create only minimal interference with his farm.
“I think it (the wind farm) is a real plus. I have no qualms about it, none whatsoever,” he said.
He did offer one negative critique.
“The money is not quite as good as they tell you it will be, but it’s not that bad,” Theurer said. He said that several of his neighbors now wish they had signed on to have turbines on their land.