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Does Proposed Wind Farm Pose Threat to 911?

A Chicago-based energy company wants to erect 100 wind turbines in southern Brown County: 54 in Morrison, 22 in Holland, 20 in Wrightstown, and four in Glenmore.

There’s concern the 400-foot turbine towers could interfere with the county’s plan to erect a series of 911 radio towers.

While emotions run high between landowners and families in southern Brown County about the pros and cons of a massive wind farm, the county’s Director of Public Safety Communications is also weighing in.

“I’m sure there will be a compromise there somewhere,” Jim Nickel said.

Tuesday night, Nickel will tell the county’s Public Safety Committee how the wind farm plans could impact the county’s plans to upgrade its 911 system, which includes a dozen radio towers.

“Potential issue to worry about, and we have to worry about, is connecting our sights together to allow that back to the 911 center.”

Nickel says if a 400-foot wind turbine were built in the path of two smaller radio towers, the microwave signal would be lost, meaning the 911 caller wouldn’t reach emergency dispatchers.

He says the county is just starting to plan where the towers will go.

“By the end of this year we should know where our sites are going to be and where those corridors are going to be, and then we can work with them to make sure they’re maybe moved a bit to allow these corridors to exist.”

Nickel expects a small number of the proposed 100 turbines would need to be relocated.

The company proposing the wind farm, Invenergy, says it will work with the county to make sure the turbines don’t impact emergency communications.

“Several things could happen,” Invenergy project developer Kevin Parzyck said. “Number one, the tower could be moved, but there are limitations based on setback, wetlands, etc. The second is, we have included alternate locations in our application, so if some of the turbines don’t work we can go to alternates. And the third possibility is, it could be a reduced size.”

Invenergy says it will submit its wind farm application to the state’s Public Service Commission in the next few weeks.

Supporters of the project say it would promote alternative energy and economic development, while opponents contend the turbines would jeopardize public health and safety.