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Coalition continues to fight; Locals networking to prevent spread of wind turbines

Local opponents of the expanding number of wind turbine projects across the state continue to battle despite having lost the battle in Clay County. Janna Swanson, one of the spokespeople for the Coalition for Rural Property Rights, said the organization of local volunteers continue to serve as a voice of objection with regards to the large towers, spinning blades and blinking red lights which span the night skyline in many parts of northwest Iowa.

“We’re basically a position,” Swanson explained. “We don’t have a membership.”

Swanson lives in rural Clay County near the Palo Alto border. She and her husband farm in both counties. While the Clay County Board of Supervisors were considering the initial agreement Apex Clean Energy for the Upland Prairie Wind Project last fall, Swanson and others were extremely vocal in public meetings with regards to the proposed entry into Clay County. In October 2017, the Upland Prairie Wind Farm, officially changed hands. Alliant Energy finalized its agreement with Apex Clean Energy for the wind farm which will result in 121 wind turbines installed across northwest Clay and Dickinson counties.

“Rural Iowa residents have no power,” Swanson said. “We fought Rock Island Clean Line for four years. At least we had the Iowa Utilities Board. … We don’t even have that with the wind turbines.”

Construction is currently underway on the Upland Prairie Wind Farm and will begin, according to officials associated with the project. Clay County’s first official wind energy installation is expected to be operational in 2019. There have also been whispers of a “Red Rock” wind project, who were exploring expanding their wind energy footprint. The “Red Rock Wind Project” is currently owned by Tradewind Energy. Tradewind Energy’s website listed the Red Rock project occurring in “Emmet, Clay and Dickinson counties,” however Alan Blum, Red Rock chairman, said at the time there had been no definitive decisions made, as officials with the project continue to strategize.

Holly McCoy-Nelson, development manager at Apex Clean Energy, told the local supervisors at the time of the agreement, “The proposed tax revenue would be $30 million in Clay County, there would be approximately $40 million in landowner payments in Clay and Dickinson counties, 250 full-time jobs during the construction period and around 15 to 20 jobs full time, operations and maintenance once operations have begun.”

McCoy-Nelson said the project was expected to be located across five townships across northern Clay County – Waterford, Summit and Lone Tree – and southern Dickinson County – Westport and Okoboji.”

The Apex spokesperson claimed, “Once constructed it will generate enough to power more than 102,000 average U.S. homes for the next 30 years.”

Swanson suggested since the Clay County Supervisors approved Upland Prairie, she and other volunteer members of the Coalition for Rural Property Rights have been exploring legal options and expanding their reach by engaging others across the state and nation who have similar concerns regarding the growth of wind turbine projects.

“It’s a huge thing that’s happening,” she said. “It seems local and small but it connected with a much larger network of people. We didn’t think this was fair or a good thing. Iowa is behind in protecting their population from industrial wind more than any other state. We’re working to get Iowa protected.

Swanson continued, “If you look at an Iowa map there are proposed programs all across the state. If they get their way there will be hundreds of miles of wind turbines all across the state. The utility companies can cover the entire state of Iowa with wind turbines but they don’t have to go through the Iowa Utilities Board.”

The coalition spokesperson suggested anything under 25 megawatts does not have to go through Iowa Utilities Board.

“This is happening all over the state,” she said. “There is so much opposition to these. We’re trying to protect rural Iowa.”

Swanson noted others across the state have been conducting meetings and groups have met with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s and Gov. Kim Reynold’s offices.

“I don’t care that it’s passed,” she said. “I don’t care that it’s legal. It’s still wrong.

Swanson continued, “A lot of the people on the coalition are people living around wind turbines now. It’s not going away. … the tide is changing very, very rapidly. People don’t want these things. If Iowa had just had a vote. If the people here had just been given a vote. They don’t want these things here.”