The turbines at the Broken Bow Wind Farm are drawing mixed reactions from those who have them on their land.
Dave Haumont was on the committee negotiating wind development in Custer County. Now that four turbines are on his property he’s not entirely sure they were a good idea.
“Really, there isn’t anything about them I can say I like except they will help me pay some bills,” Haumont said. “The turbines were going to be around me whether I wanted them or not. I figured if they were going to pay someone to have them, it might as well be me.”
Haumont lives two miles north of the turbines on a ranch that’s been in his family since his great-grandfather homesteaded it in 1883. He admitted the pastures the turbines are in are generating more income than they ever did with cattle only. Haumont can still run livestock in them – right up to the base of the turbines.
Despite that, he’s not sold on the machines. Haumont claims they are loud and cause an annoying “flicker effect,” which occurs when the rotating blades rapidly cast shadows on the objects around them. He’s also experiencing erosion along the service roads installed for the turbines and is worried the problem will get worse.
“They rolled the sod back, and I think if we would have had a normal year the grass would have come right back with rain,” Haumont said. “But it didn’t rain, and that grass is dead now. What happens if we go through another dry year?”
He said there are so many entities involved in the project that he’s not entirely sure whom he’s leasing the land to.
“I’ve been dealing with these guys for five, maybe six years now, and I don’t believe I’ve heard the same story twice,” Haumont said. “They are looking out for them. They’re not looking out for the rancher. The little guys out here aren’t meant to know anything.”
The Nebraska Public Power District has a 20-year contract to buy power from the wind farm. After that, 10-year options are available. Haumont said he views it as a 40-year agreement at least. He’s 62, which means his decision to allow turbines on his property will affect his kids and grandkids when they take over the ranch. It also had a negative effect on relations with some of his neighbors.
“I feel bad about that because I consider them friends of mine,” Haumont said. “But, I can see where they’re coming from. It’s one thing if you’re getting paid some rent, but it’s another thing if you’ve got a turbine across the road from you, and you’re not getting a cent.”
Haumont said it’s hard to make a living in the ranching business so opportunities for extra income are hard to pass up. That’s why if he had it to do all over, Haumont said he’d probably allow the turbines on his land again. But, he refuses to be a spokesman for them.
“If there weren’t any bills to pay life would be so much easier,” Haumont said. “We gave up far more than people realize. Everybody thinks this is free money falling from the skies, but forever and ever, we’re going to have people driving around on our property. It’s not something to be taken lightly.”
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