Special Report: Wind farms don’t lead to a windfall

Local News

TIPTON COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) – Corn and soybeans have long been cash crops for Indiana farmers. Soon mother nature may be a money maker with wind harvested hundreds of feet in the air.

There’s a proposed E-on Wind Farm for Posey and Gibson counties, but in some parts of Indiana where wind farms turn, not everyone sees dollar signs.

Blowing through Tipton County, about an hour north of Indy, blades have struck a chord and caused a riff among thousands who’ve planted roots.

“I kind of like being in the background and just strumming along, while all the other guys do the hard parts up front,” said David Johnston of Elwood.

Sounds outside Johnston’s home aren’t tuned like they used to.

“It’s pretty quiet. When the kids were growing up, they could ride their bicycles up and down the road.”

Since almost 80 wind turbines were built in 2012, Johnston has lived with perpetual wind.

“Sounds like a jet airplane circling overhead.”

It’s hardly music to the ears.

“It divided families, it divided neighbors against neighbors, it just divided friendships,” said Jane Harper.

Harper was a county commissioner when E-on energy first made its pitch in the late 2000’s. She anticipated it after nearby Benton County built its first wind farm in 2007.

The county had an ordinance and push back was minimal.

“There were really not very many people were resisting.”

From Harper’s perspective, people wanted wind.

“The voters are all over in Anderson. You know, the people who get all the tax benefits,” said Johnston.

But Johnston is a guy who has to live with it, some 1,200 feet behind his yard.

“I’m not a fan. If I had wanted to live in an industrial area, I would have bought a home in an industrial area.”

And then there’s a fella like Arlis Tyner, who’s been doing yard work at his home since 1971.

“They don’t bother me. I don’t like them because the looks.”

Tyner doesn’t have to look hard to see a turbine in any direction.

“The noise, I don’t hear any noise from them, they just don’t bother me.”
Even for a guy who doesn’t mind it, turbines are still hard to ignore.

“There’s a lot of war veterans out there who got used to having a leg blown off and got used to having one eye. Yes, you can get used to it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing.” said Johnston.

Tipton County got $1.2 million dollars up front from E-on. Now it’s only paid in property taxes. But Harper says that cash can’t buy everyone happiness.

“I regret that we made that decision,” said Harper.

“That money was not worth what these people were going through,” said Johnston.

There’s a lasting thorn in Johnston’s side: no savings on energy and a loss in value of his home.

“It went from 184,000 to 120,000.”
If there’s a tune in Tipton County and Harper hopes others hear it.

“County commissioners are to represent everyone in the county. If they have push back or resistance, then they have to listen to those people and what those concerns are.”

“You can’t put a price on their loss of quality of life.”

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(This story was originally published on October 27, 2019)

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