Jefferson County institutes wind farm moratorium, reviewing regulations

FAIRBURY, NE — Energy companies wanting to build wind farms in Jefferson County will need to wait at least until next year before applying for special use permits.

The Jefferson County Board unanimously voted to institute a six-month moratorium on wind farm applications at their meeting Tuesday morning. Commissioner Michael Dux says the existing Steele Flats wind farm in the southeast part of the county has windmills around 400 feet tall. The industry has evolved since then.

“Some of the newer windmills are approaching 600 feet in height so we think we need to review the standards that we have,” Dux said.

The existing regulations say turbines must be at least 600 feet away from any property line of a nonparticipating owner and 1,320 feet from the house of a non-participating owner. Turbines can’t create more than 60 decibels of noise as measured at the nearest house and must be removed within 18 months after they stop being used for energy production.

NextEra Energy told the board in April they were actively recruiting landowners to participate in a possible wind farm. Dux says the moratorium will buy the county time to inspect its rules.

“So that we can make sure the standards for a possible wind farm are where the county residents would like them,” Dux said.

The county’s Planning and Zoning Committee is tasked with reviewing the regulations and seeking input from the public. The Board expects the committee to return a recommendation in five months.

The commissioners say the Planning and Zoning Committee will host at least one public hearing on the regulations.