About an hour north of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, you’ll find some of the highest wind speeds in the state in communities around the town of Osborn in DeKalb County.
Plan a visit and listen in Osborn. You’ll hear the high winds. You’ll hear cars on the street. You’ll hear farmers in their fields, and you’ll hear heated discussions on an issue that split family members from loved ones and pit neighbors against neighbors. Those high winds, and the project to harness them, threaten to tear these long-standing communities apart.
The Osborn Wind Energy Center, referred to as the Osborn Wind Project by neighbors, is a collection of 97 turbines in DeKalb County. The project currently provides power to about 60,000 customers for Evergy.
At the head of the project stands Nextera Energy Resources. The company is the largest generator of renewable energy in the country, with more than 10,000 turbines in 36 states.
Just like near Osborn, more of the nearly 500-foot wind turbines are going up in small towns across Missouri, Kansas, and around the world.
For some living near the Osborn Wind Project, the turbines have brought huge benefits. But they’ve also caused huge divides that many argue may never heal.
With each turn of the turbines, area utilities see a boost in energy, and schools and the community see extra return in the form of tax revenue.
But that’s not all.
Every day the turbines turn, they also produce more questions for people who live around them; none of which may be more important than: Whom do you believe?
In August of 2019, KMBC 9 Chronicle set out to ask dozens of people in the communities near Osborn the same question, “How has the Osborn Wind Project benefited or divided the communities that surround it?”
Chronicle did not try to settle the green energy versus fossil fuels debate. Instead, we wanted to explore why so much controversy has surrounded the project, how the project has benefited the community and if any of the deep relational conflict in the community can ever heal.
Wind power has been around for generations in DeKalb County. But the founders of the area may never have imagined how much power the wind would hold over the community for generations to come.
“We built this house and all of a sudden we got suckerpunched,” said Leslie Dyer.
Leslie and her husband, Glenn, built a home on their family homestead in 2012. They never expected to spend every day staring at 31 wind turbines just years later.
“And then we’re reminded every day how much we’ve been betrayed,” she said.
Dyer loves to entertain, welcoming Chronicle into her kitchen where she was cooking fresh eggs from the farm. However, she says she doesn’t get the chance to have people over, whom she once called friends, as much anymore.
The Osborn Wind Project, she said, has torn apart her relationships with longtime friends and family. She believes they signed contracts, in secret, allowing the construction and operation of turbines on their properties.
Glenn Dyer is a retired Marine colonel.
He believes his fight now is to protect his family’s land and freedom, and that his fight is more important now than ever.
“Turbines are going away around the world,” he said. “I don’t know how long it will take, but at some point, the turbines here will also go away.”
Glenn Dyer chairs the group Concerned Citizens for the Future of DeKalb County. Together, they’ve met almost every Sunday at the Stewartsville Fire House for the past four years.
Recently, the group joined with a concerned citizens group of nearby Clinton County to show their communities what they see as the downsides of wind energy and the Osborn Wind Project.
Nearly 13,000 people who live in DeKalb County can see signs placed on many of the concerned citizens properties claiming wind turbines are a health hazard.
Some claim they get dizzy from a vertigo effect. Others said they suffer from migraines or insomnia from the noise – issues they believe are real.
They complain that the turbines cast shadows on the walls in their homes, and with each turn of the turbine blades, long-standing relationships between neighbors, family and friends recede into those shadows.
But, not everyone feels that way.
KMBC 9 Chronicle first met Jim Rosier in November 2018.
Rosier is a staunch supporter of the Osborn Wind Project.
Rosier and his family currently have 11 turbines on their properties.
“If you want to get the truth out there, you better listen to somebody that has windmills, that knows that these people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” Rosier said forcefully on Chronicle’s first encounter with him, as he drove up to an interview KMBC 9 was conducting with people against the wind turbines.
One of those people was Rosier’s neighbor, Johnnie Walker, another voice in the controversy.
“The other side wants to make these allegations,” Walker said. “They’re allegations.”
The two men have farms divided by just a few thousand feet, but they remain as far apart as possible on the wind project, and Nextera.
Walker, in part, sees the issue as a conflict between neighbors with Nextera in the middle.
“It’s just not right for a large multi-billion dollar company to try to come here and break our township,” he said.
Rosier doesn’t believe the opponents of the project, saying, “To interview them is to listen to a bunch of lies when it comes right down to it.”
Walker said Rosier has a right to his opinion.
“And you have to respect that,” Walker said. “But you have to be civil. And I’m not into name calling and finger-pointing. I think we’ll just stick with the facts.”
For wind-energy opponents like Walker, these are the facts: Walker has no turbines on his property. But his neighbors, including Rosier, do.
Walker said no one asked him how nearly 500-foot wind turbines towering near his home would affect his life, or change the view from his land for decades to come.
“The old adage that I can do whatever I want with my own land, well, that’s never been the case,” Walker said. “If a person does something detrimental that causes a direct or indirect problem to your neighbors, you are responsible.”
Of Walker and other turbine opponents, Rosier said, “There’s some good people in the anti-windmill … but they have been caught up in the fact that so many people have been saying they’re a health hazard, they’re going to hurt you, and they don’t know anything about windmills.”
Rosier and Walker haven’t spoken to each other in years.
Along 6 Highway in Amity, Missouri, turbines that make up the Osborn Wind Project line the landscape for miles.
For almost three years, Amity resident Billy Sonderergger has written a weekly turbine report for the local paper.
“For all the people that say it does not affect anything, what if it affects just one person’s life in Dekalb County?” one of the turbine report’s entries asks. “Would it be worth it to have money in this county?”
Sonderergger says he sees the impact from the wind turbines in the eyes of his wife.
“When Sherrie has a headache, she does not have to say a word,” he said. “All you have to do is look in her eyes, and that tells the whole story.”
“I feel like I’m dying,” said Sherrie Sonderergger. “I feel like every day I’m here, I’m just getting closer to death because I feel so bad most days.”
Sherrie Sonderergger says the turbines cause her constant migraines and sleepless nights.
“And then people say, ‘Oh, you’re just lying.’ Well, I’m not lying,” she said. “I’d gladly let somebody else have my head on their body for a while and see what I live every day that I’m here.”
We asked Sonderergger how she can prove the migraines and headaches come from the turbines. “I can leave my home, and for a period of time, for several days, it will take me two-and-a-half to three days to get symptom-free,” she said.
“It’s not good,” said Billy Sonderergger. “She wants to move. You know, I’ve lived here all my life, I don’t really want to move.”
Sherrie Sonderergger says she can’t stand to stay there.
“I can’t stand to live here. I can’t live like this every day,” she said. “It’s just sickening.”
The side effects of the turbines aren’t just personal, they’re relational, and that proof stands along the road in front of the Sondererggers home.
They put up a large sign in their yard, drawing attention to their cause and a deep divide.
“Well, the one sign says we don’t plan on rocking the boat,” said Billy Sonderergger. “We plan on sinking it. And that was in response to what the neighbors over here had on their sign.”
The Sondererggers’ neighbors, the Kagays, live just down the road. They have a big yellow sign in their front yard.
The Kagay sign reads, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
“Well, I kind of like it,” said Joyce Kagay. “Isn’t that something kind of upbeat, kind of inspiring?”
The Sondererggers put up their own sign in response, reading, “Wanted: Good lawyer to sue sick senile old hypocrite.”
“You know, all he wanted was the money,” said Sonderergger.
Joe Kagay saw that sign.
“A sick senile old hypocrite? That’s me, yeah. That’s who he’s talking about,” Kagay said.
Joe Kagay served on the DeKalb County Commission and supported Nextera Energy Resources when it brought the Osborn Wind Project to town.
“Well, what is a hypocrite? If you say you like the towers and you put up the towers, that don’t mean you’re a hypocrite,” he said.
Sonderergger calls Joe Kagay “the ruination of this area.”
“Last time I talked to him, I said two words, and he said three,” Sonderergger said. “And I just called it like I saw it.”
The Sondererggers and Kagays have been at odds since the turbines arrived.
Kagay points to a tower that stands approximately 1,200 to 1,500 feet from his house as evidence he has no trouble living near one.
“Even on a bad day, it’s a noise, but nothing like that grain fan which, if it’s running on that bin, you can hear it,” Joe Kagay said.
Joe Kagay farms with his son and grandson. The family has 10 turbines on its properties.
Joe Kagay’s grandson Bryant Kagay took KMBC 9 Chronicle up close to one of the turbines hosted on his family’s land.
“So, we’re going to drive up to one of the wind towers that’s on one of our farms. This is actually pretty close to my parents’ house. Right out in the middle of the bean field,” he said.
The Kagays say they signed a decades-long leases with Nextera.
While the terms of the Kagay family’s contracts are confidential, KMBC 9 Chronicle obtained a copy of a sample contract. The wind energy opponent who provided that document wanted to remain confidential. The document shows landowners can receive up to $10,000 each year per turbine.
We sent that sample contract to Nextera Energy Resources for verification. Spokesman Bryan Garner reviewed it and said while it was consistent with what Nextera includes in its agreements, without knowing the source or the name on the document, he stopped short of confirming the contract belonged to his company.
Garner said landowners who participate in a wind project can earn annual payments, which adds steady income to a farm operation. “Typically, they can earn more per acre than anything they could grow on that land. What’s more, as you saw during our visits to Osborn Wind, wind projects are compatible with other land uses and farmers can continue to farm around a turbine, which occupies less than an acre of land.”
That steady income can be a very strong draw for farmers.
“Farming pretty much always operates on extremely thin margins,” said Bryant Kagay. “Our input costs are high. We take a lot of risks.”
“I don’t think most people signed up to get a check, actually,” Joe Kagay said.
The Kagays admit the money from the turbines is good for their family. But, it’s also good for the community.
Nextera has quickly become the largest taxpayer in DeKalb County.
“It’s meant a lot for the school districts and ambulance districts,” Joe Kagay said. “Our roads are much better.”
“It gives me a lot of hope that my kids can have a lot of opportunity here in this same small town that I grew up in,” Bryant Kagay said.
The Kagays say turbines haven’t stopped crop dusters from flying – something concerned citizens groups said might happen. They also say they’ve had no health problems since the turbines went up.
“They are not any louder than the highway,” said Bryant Kagay. “And while yeah, there is some noise, it’s never been anything that’s really bothered me. It’s never kept me up at night. It never annoys me when I’m outside.”
As for why the turbines have turned neighbors against each other, Joe Kagay says he doesn’t see it as a strong division but admits there are exceptions, like his neighbors, the Sondererggers.
It’s a division the Sonderergger family feels strongly.
Joe Kagay says the Sondererggers initially supported the Osborn Wind Project. They accepted money from a Florida energy company as it determined where it would build the towers.
“He was for ‘em,” said Joe Kagay when talking about Billy Sonderergger. “And we didn’t know that he wasn’t for ‘em when we signed up. Once you sign up for ‘em, you really don’t know where the towers are going to go once you sign the contract.”
Sonderergger says that was a lie.
“I think that was a bold-faced lie. He knew I was against them,” Sonderergger said.
Sonderergger does admit to receiving $1,000 a year for almost seven years from the energy company. But he ultimately decided against allowing any turbines on his property.
While he says he doesn’t remember it, he says his wife reminds him he offered to give the money back.
“You know, maybe I wasn’t against them to start with,” he said. “I didn’t really know. But I was against them when the time came.”
Sonderergger says much of the debate comes down to property rights and being a good neighbor.
“When he put the turbines up, he said it was his land,” Sonderergger said. “Yeah, it was his land. But it ain’t his space, and it ain’t just me. A lot of people have suffered the ill effects of it.”
“Do I want to go have to ask my neighbor what I want to plant on that field over there?” Joe Kagay asked, pointing to his farmland. “Should I have to go ask my neighbor?”
“They are welcome to, I guess, think or believe what they want,” said Bryant Kagay. “I personally don’t see why would you continue to make the choice to be angry about something that’s here. You know, these aren’t going to just disappear tomorrow because people are unhappy about them.”
While the Osborn Wind Project has been a strong source of community controversy, it also serves as a source of major benefits for DeKalb County.
“One of the reasons that I’m glad you’re out here today is we get to show these wind turbines are nothing to be afraid of,” said Garner. The Nextera Energy Resources spokesman traveled from Florida to Osborn for an interview with KMBC 9 Chronicle.
Taxes from the 97 wind turbines in the Osborn Wind Project have brought in nearly $3 million annually to the area since going online nearly three years ago.
Nextera says the project will add an estimated $35 million in additional tax revenue to DeKalb County over its first 30 years in operations. Schools, fire districts, road districts and ambulance districts receive the money from Nextera’s tax payments.
“People didn’t know what to expect, I think there were some people that were apprehensive about it,” Garner said. “But I think in hindsight, you’re looking at a project that’s had significant benefits in this community.”
Glenn Dyer disagrees.
He says the turbines form a semi-circle around his land and stretch almost to Cameron, Missouri.
“And they strobe every three seconds, more or less,” he said. Red lights flash on the back of the wind towers at all times. “And this goes on, depending on where your home is, it may radiate into your home.”
“Right out there, there’s two flashing red lights that I can see every night when I’m in bed,” Leslie added.
Leslie and Glenn Dyer say the flashing lights never stop around what they called their dream home.
“This is it,” said Leslie Dyer. “Got a year out of it before the dream ended.”
Nextera has plans to add dozens more turbines in the area. However, lawsuits between the company and citizens in DeKalb and Clinton counties have put some of those plans on hold.
“I see the beans that are growing, then I see a horizon filled with wind turbines, and the reason they’re not in this field yet is the lawsuit against Washington Township,” said Glenn Dyer.
Washington Township is one of nine small communities in DeKalb County.
Nextera has filed suit claiming the township had a lack of zoning rules and should not stop landowners from hosting wind turbines on their properties.
Nextera also filed a lawsuit against Clinton County alleging its planning and zoning board did not follow correct zoning rules to allow the turbines there.
Both lawsuits are pending.
Kim Tindel, another member of the Concerned Citizens for the Future of DeKalb County, attended the most recent court hearing on the lawsuits with Glenn Dyer and several other citizens.
“I don’t believe in our lifetime any of these relationships that’s been divided will ever be repaired,” she said.
Tindel and Dyer said they’re attending the hearings to stand against Nextera.
“The company that owns these wind towers is in Florida,” Tindel said, “They don’t care about us.”
“We’re the largest generator of renewable energy in America, and that’s for a reason,” Garner said. “Because we try and do these partnerships with the communities.”
He wanted to travel to Missouri to dispel any misinformation about the project near Osborn.
“The vast majority of folks in DeKalb County support this wind farm. They are glad they have it. They want more wind energy,” he said. “I think you’ve talked to some people that don’t feel that way. I can’t speak for them. They can give their point of view for what their objections are, and I’m happy to answer those as best as I can.”
Garner points to studies that say people subjected to misinformation about wind energy tend to report negative health effects like migraines, headaches or cancer despite no scientific evidence the turbines cause those problems.
“Wind energy is safe,” Garner said. “People have been working and living around wind turbines for generations safely. There’s been significant studies on this. More than 80 peer-reviewed studies have found no correlation properly cited wind turbines and human health effects.”
“And I’ll say that Nextera is lying,” Glenn Dyer said. “Now, what does that make us? Opposite sides of the fence.”
Dyer points to something called infrasound – a low-frequency sound he believes is caused by the turbines’ rotation.
“If you’re talking about hearing, you’re not hearing inaudible sound. You’re not hearing the frequencies below the range that you can normally hear,” he said. “Infrasound. That’s where the health issues lie.
“It’s a scientific principle that nobody wants to get involved in, because there hasn’t been a lot of time spent with those peer-reviewed studies that you’re talking about.”
Dyer says the studies he and his wife have found online lead them to believe infrasound from the turbines is real and detrimental.
Infrasound has been a popular idea among groups that have protested wind turbines for decades. But, low-frequency infrasound is also found in vehicles, fans and even the wind itself.
Chronicle found no peer-reviewed studies showing infrasound, or any sound, from the turbines might cause cancer or organ damage like some wind-energy opponents have believed.
Dozens of competing studies debate whether further research is needed on the simple annoyance of sounds from the turbines and if they cause any ill health effects.
“I want the dark side of green energy to be told,” said Kim Tindel.
Tindel said she doesn’t need studies to justify what she feels.
“The low-frequency infrasound, every time them blades spin and they whip around the earth, I feel it,” she said. “My husband feels different than I do. He feels them when they’re really going.”
Tindel said from her property, she can see all 97 towers of the Osborn Wind Project.
“The land, I see beauty,” she said. “The towers, I see hell.”
Tindel said the shadow flicker from the spinning turbines is nauseating.
“Sleep deprivation is real,” she said. “I had to quit a couple of jobs because I was working in Liberty, an hour down there and an hour back, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
We asked Tindel how she can prove infrasound from the turbines causes sleep deprivation.
“Be forced to live under ’em for two years and eight months, and then come back and tell you what they think,” she said.
“The wind farm, the Osborn Wind Energy Center has been here for three years now,” Garner said. “Nobody’s sick. Nobody should be scared. You’re standing right next to a wind turbine. It’s quiet. It’s safe. It’s generating tremendous economic benefits for this community.”
We visited Maysville, Missouri, one week before school started for the year.
Cheerleaders were practicing on the school’s new floor.
Maysville Superintendent Robert Smith says the tile they just replaced hadn’t been updated since the 70s.
Smith says the floor renovations were only made possible by tax money from the Osborn Wind Project.
“So far, just a little under $2 million,” he said of the money received by the district. “We’ve only gotten two years of taxes.”
The district was able to buy 50 or 60 new computers. For home football games, there’s a brand new concession stand and restrooms at the stadium replacing some that were decades old.
“You could hear mothers telling their children that, ‘We’re only going to stay until you have to go to the bathroom, and then you have to go home,’ because it was not very family friendly,” Smith said.
At the school’s baseball field they’ve extended the field for 90-foot bases and built brand new lights on the upper field, where they play varsity games.
With so many improvements, we asked the superintendent why there are so many disagreements about the wind turbines.
“There are probably some people that still have some hard feelings about it,” he said. “I would guess it’s just going to take time. The wind turbines aren’t going anywhere.”
Meanwhile, Ivan Kanak has been dealing with what he says is interference from the turbines with his television signal.
“It’s odd how you get little bursts of wind and it will really, you see it just blanked out there,” he said, showing off a pixelated weather broadcast. “I could get 32 stations prior to them coming in here.”
Now he gets three stations, plus the public television station.
As some celebrate the wind project, others like Kanak wish the turbines had never come.
“Try watching a weather forecast on that,” he said.
When severe weather happens, he can’t watch KMBC 9’s First Alert Weather warnings on television. Turbulence from the turbines disrupt his antenna signal.
Nextera is paying for Dish Network service for Kanak for five years – that gets him St. Joseph TV stations. But it’s not the same as getting the news and weather from Kansas City stations, he says.
Beyond his television issues, Kanak said his biggest issue with the wind project is that he says the local citizens had absolutely no say.
“I’m not a hater,” he said. “I just think that there is a story here that needs to be told.”
Ronnie and Lynda Hoggatt have a story about the turbines, too.
“There wasn’t a one of these people that came up and asked us, ‘How would this affect you? Would it bother you if we put it up?’” said Ronnie Hoggatt.
The Hoggatts sent KMBC 9 Chronicle video they captured in their bedroom showing something called shadow flicker on their walls.
The Hoggatts say it happens at certain times of day for several weeks of the year.
They also took a recording of a screeching noise they believe was coming from a turbine.
“I just thought this was a video worth taking because this was the third day of it,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m the only one that’s got this kind of howling or not.”
Bryan Garner said Nextera Energy Resources was working to isolate the cause of the issue.
“In talking to our wind technician team, they’re investigating a possible lightning strike on that turbine that might have created that,” he said. “They’ll put in a work order and they’ll make a repair.”
Nextera eventually completed those repairs after Chronicle brought the issue to the company’s attention.
As for the shadow flicker, Garner says the phenomenon may only happen at certain times of the year and for short periods. He added that if the turbines are working properly, you can barely hear them.
“I hear crickets louder in this cornfield than anything else, I don’t know about you,” he said during our on-site interview. “It’s something that’s quiet, it’s safe, clean energy that people can farm around.”
While not everyone hears the noises or sees the turbines the same way, the Hoggatts said the worst part is the broken relationships caused by the wind project.
Lynda Hoggatt taught at Osborn School for 23 years. She said several of her former students host turbines on their properties.
“I have run into a former student that had tears in their eyes, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘I am so sorry about how this has affected your lives,’” she said. “And she, she or he was certainly sincere. The tears were sincere, and I can find forgiveness in my heart for that. But it just doesn’t happen very often.”
Lynda Hoggatt said she can see the attraction of the money coming in, and that it is such a boon to the rural schools in the area. But that doesn’t outweigh the negative impacts on the community, she said.
In the Maysville School District, where students are enjoying renovations from the wind turbine tax money, Superintendent Smith said kids aren’t being harmed by the turbines.
“They’re really being helped,” he said. “It’s helping the school district, and when it comes to small communities anywhere in America, and probably in the world, as the school goes, so goes the town.
“If our school were shrinking, or were struggling, or were ineffective in educating kids, then the town wouldn’t be as good. So, like ‘em or hate ‘em, the wind turbines have solidified the school, which I hope has solidified the communities that make up the school.”
For two hours on a summer afternoon, one of the largest groups of wind energy supporters in DeKalb County gathered together for the first time in years.
The reason – to tell KMBC 9 Chronicle why the Osborn Wind Project is good for the community.
Harold Allison was the presiding county commissioner when the turbines came to town.
“As the presiding commissioner, I couldn’t say anything,” he said. “But I feel like I can now. And it’s just so positive. I mean, we did nothing wrong as a commission.”
“I see a great thing,” said Joe Kagay. “I see people that have laughed and chuckled and had a good time, and there’s not been a group that we’ve been around that we could do that.”
Kagay says he and other landowners with turbines haven’t been together like this as group since Nextera put them online in 2016.
“We’ve all kind of pulled into a shell, because if you try to say anything, or put anything on Facebook of whatever, you’re going to get – probably shouldn’t say this – they’re going to portray you as being the rich, greedy farmer that is just out to get money,” he said.
Meanwhile, concerned citizens groups for DeKalb and Clinton counties, along with Glenn Dyer, continue to meet to discuss the opposite view.
Dyer believes that not only did his neighbors not ask others’ thoughts on the turbines, but that they signed agreements with Nextera that keep them from talking about their deals.
“It’s an issue that has a gag order with it, they can’t talk about it,” he said.
Jim Rosier disputes that.
“I have a family – a large family. And it’s very important that the way things are right now, is having a secondary income from the windmills,” he said.
Rosier said there’s no gag order stopping him from speaking out about the turbines on his family’s property.
“There’s been a lot of things said about windmills that has damaged their name and reputation, just like a person,” he said.
Wind turbine supporter Rodney Steven said he’s been called greedy because he has turbines on his land.
“I just look at it as another way to have farm income on my property,” he said.
Steven said he’s not under a gag order, either. He calls the decision to allow wind towers on his property a land rights issue.
“Would anybody here call this a residential neighborhood?” he asked. “It’s a rural area, and I don’t believe rural areas need huge zoning laws.”
Bryan Garner told KMBC 9 Chronicle Nextera has contracts with financial terms between landowners, which Nextera hopes would remain confidential. “But people have the right to free speech,” he said. “They can express themselves. And they do.”
While Nextera has those contracts with several DeKalb County landowners, the company is also a member of the Advanced Power Alliance, an industry trade group that lobbies governments and regulators to promote clean energy across the country.
“What we are seeing increasingly are anti-renewable energy groups who prey upon the small, organic, genuine concern and spread a lot of misinformation about wildlife impacts, misinformation about health, and what we try to do is get in and share accurate information,” said Jeff Clark, president of the Advanced Power Alliance.
“Unfortunately, in many cases, the opponents of renewable energy hide their – we call it dark money – in organizations where there is no transparency at all,” he said. “We do know the coal industry fuels a lot of the efforts. It’s clear there is a financial interest in spreading misinformation about renewable energy.”
Clark claims a lot of that misinformation comes from unsourced websites and social media that concerned citizens groups see and start to share.
He is careful to point out he has no evidence that happened in DeKalb or Clinton counties, but shared the observation based on evidence he’s seen in anti-wind turbine groups across the country.
Dyer said he’s never been influenced by misinformation, big coal, or any other special interest.
“So far, everything we’ve said is true,” Dyer said. “It’s been proven out as true.”
As for anyone in the community who might wonder where his group gets money, Dyer said the fundraising happens because of members’ efforts to raise the money themselves.
“I can assure you, every penny we’ve received came out of someone’s pocket that lives here in DeKalb County,” he said. “It’s the poor dirt farmer that’s come up with the nickels and dimes that have kept this group going.”
The concerned citizens are banding together to pay the legal fees to fight Nextera’s lawsuits to build more turbines – turbines that wind energy supporters hope will come to the area.
“I think they are great – the best thing that ever happened to this county,” Allison said. “There’s no industry that you’ll ever bring into this county that will bring us that kind of tax money.
“I know they’ve got their views, and that’s great. Everybody’s going to have a different opinion. But they won’t let you voice your opinion without hootin’ and hollering.”
Billy Sonderergger sees things differently.
“Our rights was infringed upon,” he said. “And I’m sure people will tell you just the opposite, that I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
With each turn of a turbine separating this community more and more, how can neighbors move forward? And can they do so together? And what about in other counties considering turbines?
The conversation about wind energy in Buchanan County, Missouri, is just starting after years of animosity over the turbines in the Osborn Wind Project in nearby DeKalb County.
A crowd of hundreds packed a meeting held by Buchanan County officials to be part of that conversation.
DeKalb County Commissioner Kyle Carroll was there to speak, and several members of the DeKalb County concerned citizens group attended, as well.
“What I would suggest is about a six-month moratorium for you guys, and then you can process it,” Carroll told the Buchanan County gathering.
“It’s in the roots of this community that you trust your neighbor,” said Glenn Dyer. “You ask your neighbor what they think of something. You get their permission, so to speak, to do something. The reason that the community becomes fractured is a betrayal of trust.”
Bob Evans went to the meeting to speak in favor of wind energy.
“Yeah, it created a lot of animosity between the people,” he said. “But you know, clean energy is worth fighting for.”
Evans told the crowd he was one of the original people who studied bringing wind turbines to DeKalb County.
“You gotta show both sides,” he said. “And if I wasn’t here because this isn’t a sanctioned county event, or a sanctioned Nextera event, somebody’s gotta speak up.”
After heated commentary, it became clear the people of Buchanan County have major questions about wind energy in their communities – many have concerns based on the fractured communities in the Osborn Wind Project.
“TV stations have towers. Somebody comes up and says, ‘You’re blocking my view.’ Are you going to take your TV station down?” Evans asked. “Probably not.”
“It’s caused a lot of turmoil in the community, there’s no doubt,” said Rodney Steven.
Johnnie Walker still views the project as an issue between neighbors, like with his neighbor, Jim Rosier.
“The division comes in the community, with neighbors not talking to neighbors,” Walker said.
He added a poignant quote from conservationist Albert Leopold to the conversation with Chronicle.
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it, and love it, and respect it.”
“If I want a windmill, I feel I should have the right to sign up and have a windmill on my farm,” Rosier said. “If my neighbor doesn’t want one, then he has the same right. But that neighbor doesn’t have the right to come over onto my place and take my windmill away.”
With each day the wind blows, it’s another day to form a stronger opinion about the Osborn Wind Project, and there are a lot of opinions out there.
“The wind project has not divided the community,” said resident Bonnie Hinderks. “There are some people who have chosen to be divisive about the situation.”
One thing is clear – through all the experts, the studies, the lawsuits and the meetings held on the issue in these communities over the past few years, no one has yet figured out how to heal the relationships affected by the wind project.
Chronicle asked Nextera’s Bryan Garner how the relationships might heal. He said, “A program like this might be a right step in the right direction you’re able to show people the other points of view, you’re able to come up to a turbine to show this is something that’s not scary. It’s something that’s quiet, it’s safe that clean energy that people can farm around.”
But can the residents move on? Forgive and forget? Or find common ground?
“You’re just going to have generations go away,” said Glenn Dyer. “And most people will die here.”
“There will have to be a number of funerals, I’ll just put it that way,” said Ivan Kanak, who made sure to say he is not promoting any sort of violence, instead saying healing may take generations. “It’s going to take a long time, a long time.”
For now, the Osborn Wind Project is projected to provide energy for decades to come.
And the strong opinions will most likely remain.
Regarding that, Glenn Dyer asks, “For your listening public: Who are you going to believe? Who do you want to believe?”
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