It doesn’t seem unreasonable for the U.S. Air Force to request a larger buffer between wind turbines and intercontinental ballistic missile facilities.

The Air Force has asked the Public Service Commission to increase the setback requirement to 2 nautical miles, which is equal to 12,152 feet. At present, wind turbines are required to be at least 1,200 feet from an ICBM facility.

Lt. Col. Mike Toomer told the PSC that helicopters are relatively slow moving and in the case of ground fire would have to do a lot of maneuvering. That would be difficult to do in a field of turbines. While the chances of an attack might be remote, it’s a possibility that’s need to be part of planning.

The PSC isn’t considering a setback proposal similar to the Air Force request at the moment. Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the industry would want to know if such a request was considered.

The Tribune editorial board believes the PSC should work with the Air Force in developing an official request. The industry should have an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposal as it’s developed. In the end, though, the Air Force needs would seem to come first.

Whether 2 nautical miles is appropriate distance needs to be decided.

As more, and bigger, wind farms are developed in the state there will be more issues raised about siting. Residents in Burleigh County recently objected to a proposed wind farm, and it was rejected.

The PSC has under consideration a rule related to turbines near missile sites. The proposal would require wind farms to maintain a 30-foot buffer zone on either side of the line of sight between ICBM launch sites and launch control facilities. At least one energy developer at the PSC meeting had no problem with the proposed rule.

The buffer is needed because turbines placed within the direct line between missile facilities can interfere with data transmission. The PSC should approve the rule.

While energy developers appear understanding of military needs, they are less enthusiastic about other proposals.

The PSC has a proposal to reduce the maximum sound allowed near homes and businesses near wind farms. The proposal would drop the limit from 50 decibels to 45 decibels within 100 feet of a house or community building. The rule is an attempt to prevent noise from turbine blades from bothering neighbors.

One energy developer questioned the justification for the proposed rule.

As more wind farms are proposed there likely will be more objections based on noise and a wind farm’s impact on the viewshed. These won’t be easy issues for local entities or the PSC.

The Air Force’s requests make sense, and the PSC should approve them. The odds of an energy company wanting to take on the military wouldn’t seem very high.

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