FAIRMONT – With wind farms popping up all around Minnesota, one local company is helping landowners take back their wind rights.
Wind Locked, LLC is a non-profit company made up of residents and landowners in Faribault and Martin County who oppose the construction of a wind turbine industrial zone on agricultural land and rural homesteads.
According to the company’s website, “Members feel these projects are unsafe and an inappropriate use of land rights, privacy, and federal tax subsidies.”
With the goal to keep large wind turbines out of the area, the company acquires and holds the wind easement rights of its members’ properties for conservation and environmental purposes.
There are currently three wind farms in Martin County and one in Faribault County, although new wind projects have been proposed in both counties.
Wind farms can be found around the state. In 2016, the American Wind Energy Association reported that the state of Minnesota ranked 7th for the number of wind turbines in the United States with 2,427 turbines.
Wind Locked President Carolyn Zierke, who spoke on behalf of the company’s members, said that Wind Locked started when local rural landowners felt that their voices weren’t being heard by public officials. They had to look for new ways to keep the wind turbines out of the area.
“So when we did our research on that we thought, why can’t we protect the wind?” said Zierke.
Wind Locked started in early 2017 with about five or six local farmers. In the past year, the company has grown to 130 members.
Zierke said that members of the company still own their land, but Wind Locked holds the wind rights, which makes it harder for wind turbines to be put up in areas around the member’s property. When they become a member, they pay a fee to offset the legal fees to acquire the wind rights and have a vote within the company.
“We’re not against wind or solar energy, but we believe that these large turbines aren’t the answer, and we believe in the future there’s going to be a better option, but it’s not these,” said Zierke.
Zierke said that the main concern of members when it comes to wind turbines is for the area around their property to turn into an industrial park, and lead to the loss of their rural lifestyle.
Wind Locked is considered a conservation company. With their 2018 slogan being “Keep ‘Em Flying,” Wind Locked looks to protect wildlife such as eagles and bats from colliding with wind turbines. Zierke said that the company has worked with the National Eagle Foundation and is now looking to work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to locate the eagle nests around the Blue Earth River.
With the idea that the rural landowners are “Stronger Together,” Zierke said that Wind Locked has created a sense of community and a circle of trust in rural Faribault and Martin County.
“We’re all in this type of thing together,” said Zierke.
Having started with the East Chain Township and Elmore, Wind Locked has now worked with rural landowners in areas such as Delavan and Worthington.
Zierke said that the company plans to have each community oversee their own Wind Locked so that landowners have control of the wind in their areas.
Hitting the one-year mark as a company, Wind Locked is now looking at outreach efforts to other areas in Minnesota with hopes to expand. Zierke said that rural landowners from around southern Minnesota have been contacting the company, including people in the St. Cloud area.
“We’re not here protesting. It’s a way we can actually have a voice, and rural homeowners can voice their opinions,” said Zierke. “That’s the main concern.”