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Boone County Commission enacts new wind power regulations

After two years of back-and-forth, the Boone County Commission approved a set of rules governing wind turbines in the county this week.

The new regulations, unanimously approved by the commission Thursday evening, altered several of the county’s wind policies. The rules restricted turbines from being constructed within 1,750 feet of residential property lines and capped the maximum height of turbines at 263 feet. 

James Owen, executive director of Columbia-based clean energy group Renew Missouri, said the ordinance was essentially a “de facto wind ban.”

“Anybody who can read it would know there is no way any wind is going to be developed as a result of these ordinances,” Owen told The Missouri Times. “These are not requirements anywhere that wind power proliferates. This was adopted by a county that told me it didn’t believe it needed more tax revenue.”

Renew Missouri opposed the proposal earlier this year, pointing to economic opportunities wind farms could create. Owen said the county relied on an anti-wind advocate when drafting the regulations while avoiding meeting with groups that opposed the proposals. 

Boone County District I Commissioner Justin Aldred said the new standards were shaped over an extensive process and numerous public meetings. He said the language was workshopped with other county departments and there is room for changes in the future.  

“We believe these revisions will better suit industry standards and best practices while keeping with the property-owner rights that are expected in a plan-and-zone county such as Boone,” Aldred told The Missouri Times. “Ultimately, our planning and zoning regulation is a living document and, should these regulations cause any unseen adverse effect in the future, that can be amended through the same process of public input and data analysis that Planning and Zoning put into crafting this policy.”

Owen said the county had not responded to Renew Missouri’s allegations that the process had been biased and the county’s source provided inaccurate information while the measure was being drafted. 

Wind farms have been a contentious topic in Boone County for several years. The commission held numerous public hearings and heard extensive testimony from both sides, according to Aldred. 

The ordinances define abandonment of a turbine as reducing its output to 20 percent of its average capacity for six months or more, tighten reporting requirements for operators, and require approval from the owners of at least 75 percent of a plot of property to approve new wind operations amid a myriad of policy changes. 

Nearby Adair County is anticipating more than $32 million in revenue from wind turbines over the next 20 years while farmers are benefiting financially from the projects as well, according to Owen. 

Ameren Missouri is also investing in wind farms across the state, creating additional jobs and leading the throng of Missouri utility companies shifting their focus to clean energy generation.