Hughes County is a beautiful region of the state let alone the upper Midwest. The rolling prairie grasslands, the multitude of growing crops, the Missouri river’s mystic surrounding Lewis and Clark, and the night skies filled with stars are just a handful of the reasons one can appreciate the splendor. Every fall more than 400 guests travel to my families’ hunting operation and remind us of that same great appreciation; not that we need reminded. Overlaying the vast beauty of our agricultural landscape with a blight of numerous blinking 500’ industrial steel noise making structures is not deserving to those of us that call this area home.
One can easily form an opinion on what lies ahead for future economic and rural development growth in an area slated for wind turbines. No one in their right mind would ever build an agriculture related building, barn or home within close proximity to the environmental chaos an industrial wind farm projects. As easily identified in other established wind farms; it soon becomes recognized as an industrial zone; plain and simple.
When understanding the relationship between the billions of taxpayer funded PTC (production tax credit) subsidies and industrial wind developments; Omaha billionaire and Berkshire Hathaway mogul Warren Buffett said it best: “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” Buffet told an audience in Omaha, NE. “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.”
Cheap electricity? Far from it. In terms of tax dollars, the production tax credit for wind is estimated to cost taxpayers $13.8 billion between 2014 and 2018. Energy mandates, drive up electricity rates as traditional energy sources are phased out for costlier power provided by intermittent wind energy. This hits consumers once in their taxes and twice in higher electricity bills, which raises the prices on goods and services as well as utilities. The recent push for wind development isn’t because the technology has improved; rather it’s a result of the pending phase out of the taxpayer funded PTC subsidies.
The environmental footprint of a large industrial wind development alone can encompass tens of thousands of acres warranting studies necessary to address concerns for wildlife from waterfowl flyways, beneficial bats, as well as livestock operations located in close proximity. Iowa State University in collaboration with the Iowa DNR is currently in the midst of a study to understand the impacts an industrial wind development’s proximity has on Ring-necked pheasant nesting success, behavioral responses and movements. One of its objectives is to provide guidance on how pheasant populations can continue to thrive in areas slated for future industrial wind development. “South Dakota” and “pheasant” are synonymous with each other, which is another reason to give careful consideration.
Due diligence needs to be done to digest not only the numerous testimonies from families that have been exposed to literally living under the shadows of these monstrosities, but also consider the number of independent studies illustrating health effects and concerns with audible noise pollution, infrasound and shadow flicker to name a few. If these aren’t legitimate concerns why does California based wind developer, Infinity Renewables have an indemnity section (13.1) in their contract that holds them harmless from a landowner’s damage or injury directly suffered as a result of any audible or electromagnetic noise, electrical interference, radio frequency interference, vibration, visual impacts, flicker shadows or weather-related effects or hazards attributable to the developer’s operations? Many developers have confidentiality clauses (a gag order of sorts) preventing land owners from speaking negatively about the effects and potential disregard for the property during and after the development stage. Who wants to do business with an industry like that let alone have property within close proximity?
Wind developers secure easements many months before they even approach local government entities. They proceed to try and persuade local governments to establish uncomfortably close setbacks between rural homes and 500’ industrial wind turbines so they can maximize the number of turbines in a project area. When confronted with more reasonable 1-2 mile setbacks which are in line with recommendations from organizations such as The World Health Organization; they push forward with irresponsible setbacks based on their own data which is nothing more than self-regulating. Self-regulating as the old saying goes … ”like giving the fox the plans to the hen house.” What kind of kickback response would you expect if livestock confinements, fish farms and nuclear waste disposal firms were given the reigns to determine their own setbacks? Wind developments should be treated no different.
Are you comfortable living a mere 1,400 feet from a 500 foot tall industrial wind energy generator as California wind developer Infinity Renewables recommends with great bias? I’m confident our commissioners won’t allow for this form of self-regulating by Infinity or any other wind development firm, and they will recognize a greater distance is needed; but that remains to be seen. Walworth County established a 2 mile setback, Letcher, SD Township has a 1 mile setback, and Lincoln county residents found compromise in a ½ mile.
Let’s leave the carnival of blinking lights and noise for other areas of the country.
Michael Bollweg is the owner of Bollweg farms and the Tumbleweed Lodge in Hughes County, South Dakota.
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