The Palo Alto Wind Energy Conversion ordinance is done. All the residences of the county can now legally be subjected to a wind turbine as close as 1500 feet from their door. Our public lands will receive a 1500 foot buffer but our private properties only receive 1.2x the height of the turbine. The turbines are measured to the hub and not to the blade tips so truly the setback is less than it seems.
The Supervisors have said that about 50% of the county wants wind farms and about 50% do not want wind farms. Generally the desire for wind farms comes from the fact that developers are offering $10,000 per turbine per year to landowners. That is a great deal! Except we all know there is no free lunch. The developers want landowners to sign an easement over their entire farms, regardless of how much land the developer needs. I was curious so I asked our Midamerican Representative why. He said it was because they don’t know where they want to place them. Hmmm. They have computer generated maps that can give them the general spaces available according to turbine spacing, turbine height, existing structures, terrain and restrictions set in place by county ordinances. I then asked why they don’t get the easement after they figure out where they wanted to put them. He just smiled and said “Why does it matter? They are signing them anyway.”
Midamerican will buy all these projects with the money handed to them from the Federal government. They are now trying to maximize their profits by offering $10,000 a turbine to “buy the farm” or at least have legal control of it.
When the subsidies are done, and the 7 year tax abatement is finished the landowner payments will be a drag on Midamerican. Already we have heard of landowners who have signed extra legal papers from Midamerican only to find out that the papers cut their payments in half. Other landowners have used their payments to fix their tiles after the wind companies were done.
The Supervisors have said that you can sign for a wind turbine but you do so at your own risk. You are bottom line responsible to make sure they do what they say they will do. The Supervisors suggest that you find an attorney that is well versed in this sort of contract. Make sure that that attorney does not have ties to the wind companies.
It is easy to look around our state and feel like everyone is signing a contract so that it must be OK but think of it this way. Iowa has about 4000 turbines with many landowners getting more than one. There are about 88,000 farms in Iowa. You already know why people sign, you may want to ask yourself why so many of your neighbors will not sign.
(signed) Janna Swanson
Palo Alto Landowner
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