A wind turbine project for Clinton and DeKalb Counties is causing some controversy and concern.
At issue is the potential for economic development versus the threat that one of the area’s biggest businesses say it could cause them.
They’ve been milking cows on the Shatto farm south of Osborn in Clinton County for more than 100 years. Since 2003, Shatto Dairy has been in operation selling dairy products commercially since 2003. They’ve won several awards and were even named as one of the best small businesses in the nation in 2006.
“We have wonderful cows that we believe can produce some of the best milk in the country,” says Matt Shatto, who now operates the family operation.
But Shatto fears a wind energy project proposed for the region by NextEra Energy, based in Florida. Shatto says a wind turbine would be erected less than a half-mile from his farm.
“That’s very scary to us,” he said. “Anything that comes about, whether it’s noise, whether it’s electricity, that can all put stress on the dairy animals.”
Shatto cites research from dairy farms in Wisconsin that showed wind turbines there stunted milk production from the cows. NextEra representatives, in addition to area land owners in support of the project, dispute those statistics.
“Some of the dairies had windmills on them, some of them did not. I did not hear one bad thing about the windmills,” said Dan O’Connor, who’s farmed in Clinton County his whole life.
O’Connor says the opportunity of having wind turbines on his land becomes a matter of economics.
“I felt like we needed some long-term income,” he said. “We don’t know what the cattle market is going to do. We don’t know what the grain market is going to do.”
Clinton County commissioners say they’re also considering economics when debating the benefits of the wind turbine project. There’s some dispute as to what the project could provide. While NextEra says there could be as much as $35 million in economic development to the region, Clinton County Presiding Commissioner Wade Wilkin says that number could be as low as $18,000.
“If this wind farm comes in, it’s going to stunt any development in the northern part of the county for 50-80 years,” Wilkin said. “It needs to have some kind of bombshell figure.”
Wilkin says another factor is currently opposing the project is keeping an already-successful business happy. Shatto says he has plans for a major expansion to his facility but is holding off on moving ahead until after the wind turbine project is resolved.
NextEra officials say they have scheduled an information session to answer questions for September.