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Rural Iowans Reject Industrial Wind  

Author:  | Aesthetics, Impacts, Iowa

For over 4 years now I have been working every day to protect rural Iowa from the onslaught of Industrial Wind Turbines. Beginning with the day our family received a certified letter that the Rock Island “Clean” Line, a 500 mile wind energy power line, was seeking a 200 foot easement by the threat of eminent domain through our farm. Now I and many other Iowa residents are seeking to halt the hundreds and hundreds of Industrial Wind Turbines being proposed throughout our communities. I am a member of the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance, a grassroots organization started in Clay County Iowa that stopped the Rock Island Clean Line and now I am a board member of the Coalition for Rural Property Rights started in Palo Alto that seeks to stop MidAmerican’s and Alliant’s wind energy goals because those goals are destroying the land and the peace of our homes.

Everyone loves wind turbines you say? Iowa’s government supports Industrial Wind? The farmers love the land payments? No, the closer you get to wind installations the more you will find out how much industrial turbines are losing favor. This last year I have received phone calls from all over the Midwest. People are distraught. People have been going door to door talking to neighbors, putting up signs, writing letters to newspapers, holding meeting, starting groups, starting webpages and talking with their County governments.

For the most part the people that support Industrial Wind live in town or don’t live here at all. In Palo Alto and Clay Counties an average of 4 residences per affected townships have signed up to have Industrial Turbines on land parcels where they live. In Sac County only 12% of the landowners that have signed contracts for industrial turbines actually live on the land. In Blackhawk, Poweshiek, Mahaska, Ida, Greene and Boone Counties it is all the same story. The rural residents don’t want the installations, have no vote yet will have to live with the negative impacts every day for as long as the turbines last.

The people who live in the footprint stand to make the most money but they refuse to sign because they have heard the testimonies of others that signed before they knew of the negative impacts. Many of these people would not sign if they had to do it all over again.

There are many, many reasons why people do not want Industrial Wind and none of those reasons have anything to do with the turbines being renewable energy.

Industrial Wind Turbines can be loud. In rural areas we generally have a nighttime decibel reading of 25 dBA. Wind turbine companies in our state have been seeking to raise that level to 45-60 dBA. Many times people have not just one turbine, but multiple turbines surrounding their homes. The noise is likened the sound to a jet plane that never lands.

Wind turbines create wakes and turbulence for miles. The pressure changes in the air from wind turbines can cause some people to feel dizzy or have headaches, vertigo. Between the pressure and the noise, sleep can be difficult. A growing number of experts are studying these claims and finding that the people with these claims are indeed not “making it up” as the wind industry claims.

Shadow flicker sounds innocuous enough but often it is allowed for rural residents to have to put up with the large shadows that are thrown by the blades for every day for weeks on end all within their homes and on their property. It is like a strobe light you cannot turn off. This can also make people feel ill.

The look of the turbines. Maybe a few are not horrible but when hundreds are shoved in one area it clutters the whole landscape and the night sky is filled with blinking red lights. It can ruin the beauty of the entire countryside for 30 miles in every direction from an area half the size of Des Moines for one installation. The largest reason why we have only 5 offshore wind turbines (these were built behind an island) in the US is because people do not want turbines in their coastal views. Iowans love their views as well. Town and city residents want to have attractive surroundings and so do rural residents.

Wind turbines complicate farming. Gone is any hope of straight rows and that decreases efficiency. Gone is efficient aerial applications. Gone is the soil that is world class and the staple of our economy. Many Ag pilots refuse to fly within half a mile of turbines. Ground rigs don’t work if the ground is soggy or the crops are leaning. The large equipment used to build turbines can damage tile and often it is not fixed in a timely manner or not at all when the wind company disagrees that the damage is their fault.

Turbine failures are inevitable. Failures are also far more common than the wind industry claims. GCube Insurance is a renewable energy insurance provider. On their website they claim “there are an estimated 3,800 incidences annually of blade failure – a rate of 1 in 184, or, put more simply, 1 incident per 61 turbines in operation.” Turbines that throw blades or fall over could harm people working the fields. Turbine fires burn for days and local fire crews are not equipped to fight them.

Wind turbines kill birds. The wind companies like to say that they only kill a small fraction of our birds. They cite buildings, cats and cars as other things that kill birds. How many of those things are there compared with the relatively small amount of turbines? We have 261.8 million cars and 86 million cats compared to 50,000 or so turbines yet the last administration felt the need to give wind companies the right to kill 4,200 eagles each year. That number does not include the rest of the birds or bats.

Our communities are fighting. The local town-based governments that have control over the rural areas want the money. That money, provided by the Production Tax Credit, is driving this whole mess. Even Warren Buffett is quoted saying “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

The American Wind Energy Association has done a great job of telling about how much the rural areas love Industrial Wind and the farmers love their payments. That is likely how they got our legislators to agree to this debacle. Now that the offers have been made and the numbers are in it looks like Iowans would rather preserve and protect our land and landscapes instead of giving MidAmerican or Alliant, that are planning to buy these projects from the wind companies, easement over thousands and thousands of our acres to control.

Many other communities across the US and around the world are voting Industrial Wind out of their communities or instilling restrictive zoning that makes installations unprofitable. Iowa is lagging far behind in protecting its people. They are allowing our utility monopolies to run over our rural communities to satisfy their own back-patting goals.

Wind companies often say that the mountain of evidence in the form of testimony and studies that speak to the problems people have living near industrial Wind turbines are all lies. Even we will admit that not everyone has these problems. I would respect the Industry more if they admitted the problems though they do list them in their contracts. Here is an excerpt from an Invenergy Neighbor Agreement contract that they offer non-participating residents within half a mile of their projects. For a small one-time payment their contract gives the developer an “exclusive easement on, over, under and across all of the Owner’s Property to permit Generating Units or other wind energy conversion systems on adjacent property or elsewhere to cast shadows or flicker onto the Owner’s Property; impact view or visual effects from the Owner’s Property; and cause or emit noise, vibration, air turbulence, wake, and electromagnetic and frequency interference.” If a company feels the need to offer these contracts then their turbines are too close. If a neighbor does not sign one of these contracts they will still receive the negative impacts. When communities instill zoning that protects homes and properties, there is not enough room for these 50–70-story-tall turbines.

People may say that farmers don’t like progress. If that were true many of us would still be farming with horses instead of machines with 250 horsepower. Farmers understand the cost of restoring our world-class soils after the turbines and the PTC have expired. The US does not make 4% of its energy from wind, only 4% of its electricity. That 4% has cost us billions. What we cut in greenhouse gases according to AWEA is 159 million metric tons of CO₂ worldwide. That is less CO₂ than the 290 million metric tons US forest fires release annually, just a tiny fraction of the 40 billion tons of CO₂ humans are responsible for every year. When you count the cost to our peace in our homes, loss of property values, harm to our wildlife, the harm to the land and agricultural businesses, the price of decommissioning, the loss of community relationships, the cost has been and will continue to be staggering.

Janna Swanson
Ayrshire, IA
Coalition for Rural Property Rights

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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