When I was in Iraq in 2006, my wife at the time emailed me and said Byron Christoffer wanted to put up some wind turbines across the road from us on his property. I said that is fine, I like electricity. In my mind I envisioned wind turbines in the middle of the section like another wind turbine project Steve Christoffer had built near me north of the interstate.
When I got home in 2007, we drove down the gravel road to my home and there they were. Not in the middle of the section as I had envisioned, but right across the road from my property and acreage. They seemed pretty close but I figured that they had to have followed all the rules and regulations.
Then the noise started; thump, thump, thump; like the incessant, torturous noise in Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Tell-Tale Heart, which finally drives a person mad. When they weren’t thumping they were making whooshing sounds, like a jet airplane. Even when they were not turning they hummed. And when fall arrived we got our first taste of shadow flicker, which is a semi-annual occurrence as we go through the fall and spring equinoxes. I thought this is America, how can something this noisy and obtrusive be allowed to be constructed this close to a residence? And today, as most rural residents are enjoying the soft, quiet sound of snowflakes falling; we get the privilege of having our peace, quiet, and serenity ruined by the drone of my unwelcome and un-neighborly wind turbines.
So, I traveled to Jackson to meet Gordy Olsen of the Planning and Zoning office to voice my concern. He said they were put up following the set-back requirements of the state and gave me the contact information for the company that owned the turbines, Exelon. I was puzzled that voicing a complaint about noise and shadow flicker to a government agency ended up with me getting contact information of the company I was complaining about. I felt like a chicken getting told to go to the fox den to resolve my issue. This started a year’s long process that still has found no resolution, which is another story in itself.
On the first meeting I had with the Exelon henchmen, one of them stood on my property and said: Maybe you are hearing the wind whistling in your ears? So, we scheduled a meeting with this individual, another man and the German engineer who had designed the project for John Deere Renewables, the original builders of the project. I made the comment that with all the years of wind turbine construction behind us, I couldn’t be the only one with complaints about them. The German engineer said that landowners are restricted with a gag order that they cannot complain, once they sign the contract. He then went on to say that wind project companies are voluntarily pushing the set-back to over 1,000 feet or more to alleviate some of the noise and shadow flicker problems. To the dismay of the aforementioned smart aleck, the engineer said if the project was done today only one would be put up in the neighbor’s square mile due to the proximity of residences.
One of the main points I tried to convey to the Exelon people was that what took place in the construction of this project was wrong. This project was snuck through following outdated set-back guidelines which are still in place, totally disregarding the sanctity of rural living. I felt that if I could prevent one other family from having to go through the hell I have over the last few years, that voicing this issue would be worth it. But Exelon kept denying and dragging their feet, eventually not responding to my last emails. That battle is not over by any means.
So now we have another large wind turbine project being planned in Jackson County. It doesn’t feel right to call it a wind farm project as farmers typically care for their neighbors instead of trampling them like the 800 lb gorilla big wind companies. This company is playing the same smoke and mirrors that they all do: The turbines make no more noise than a refrigerator running in your house. The turbines we are going to use are “supposed” to be quieter than Suzlon’s or others. We will place them with the farmers thoughts in mind; until the contract is signed and they can put them anywhere they so choose on your property. And if the landowner complains about noise or shadow flicker, too bad, they are up and running, you signed the contract, which includes the gag order to keep your mouth shut.
As citizens of this great nation we expect our government to protect and care for us. If it isn’t done on a national level, we hope it is done at the state, county, city or township level. Since nothing has been done at the national level on set-back requirements the hope would be that the states would protect their citizens. But the government is the fox in the henhouse, as they mandate certain percentages of “green” energy, then pass lax regulations that let wind turbine project managers place turbines dang near anywhere they like. Counties seem to fall in lock-step with the state believing that the state must have done its homework in developing its rules and regulations; and townships follow along.
It is puzzling that many counties require hog barns or other animal housing units to be 2,000 feet or more from the nearest residence. But a wind turbine can be 750 feet! Both structures may be considered not very pleasing to the sense of sight. But why is the sense of smell of potential animal odors worse than continuous noise pollution from a wind turbine? There are a few counties and townships that are proposing or have in place set-backs of 2,000 feet to a half mile to the closest residence. After living in close proximity to two of these bad neighbors for ten years, a half mile or so seems about right to not infringe on people’s property rights.
Steve Christoffer put up a couple of wind turbine projects over here in Ewington Township that were done what seems to be correctly. Lines of turbines out in the middle of the section away from residences, I believe no closer than 1,700 feet. The noise is noticeable when the air is heavy, not like the 1,000 feet set-back turbines which are noisy all the time.
As a combat veteran with nearly 30 years in the military I have seen my share of right and wrong. Wind turbines placed according to our state’s set-back guidelines are just plain wrong. I had no idea that wind turbines made the amount of noise that they do, or what shadow flicker even was. How would I? There was no meeting or class showing what the noise was like, or what shadow flicker does to a family’s home. Most people don’t have any idea what it is like living by a wind turbine, until after they are constructed and turned on and they get a rude awakening.
I suggest that a moratorium be placed on new construction of wind turbines in Jackson County until the public gets an informational and educational meeting from our government or private sector explaining the pros and cons of having a wind turbine on their property. Before the meeting an anonymous survey, to protect the individuals affected by the gag order, should be conducted to determine the effects wind turbines have had on Jackson County residents who live close to a wind turbine. I believe we have a sufficient number of wind turbines in Jackson County to do our own analysis of what a realistic set-back distance is. If there are numerous complaints from the survey at a close set-back distance; which either annoys, disturbs, or affects the comfort, repose, health, or peace of our rural families, our county should push the set-back distance back to a distance where the complaints are few. It is time to stand up to big wind and big government and their trampling of the rural residents of this county, state, and nation.
Local units of government pushed back the set-back distance of hog barns and other animal unit facilities because of potential odor problems to nearby residents. The same should be done for industrial electrical generators that emit noise pollution on a continuous basis, ruining peaceful country living.
If you want I can come to a meeting and explain my views and the situation I have been thrust into against my will. I know of a couple other people whose voices have been stifled that I could invite also. My contact information is:
Thomas Behrends, 78739 320th Ave, Worthington, MN 56187
Cell phone: (507) 360-3057; e-mail: thomas.behrends (gmail)
Potential Survey Questions
- Do you have wind turbines on your property?
- Are there wind turbines in close proximity to your property?
- How far away is the closest wind turbine?
- Do you feel the set-back distance of the wind turbines is too close or just about right?
- What do you feel the set-back distance from residences should be?
- What do you feel the set-back distance from property lines should be?
- How many days in an average week does the noise affect you?
- How many nights in an average week are you kept awake or awakened by wind turbine noise?
- Are you able to enjoy outside activities on your acreage or are you driven inside by the noise?
- How many days per year is your home affected by shadow flicker?
- If you are a participating landowner, do you feel the wind project developer was upfront and honest in all aspects of securing your land for development?
- Do you feel the wind turbines are louder, about as described, or quieter than the wind project developers explained to you?
- Do you feel your home is worth less because of the proximity a wind turbine?
- If you are a participating landowner with a wind turbine close to your home, would you allow them to place the turbine where it is again or would you require a larger set-back?
- Would it make sense to require wind turbines close to residences to be shut off at night, weekends, and time periods of shadow flicker?