Wind turbine meeting generates pros and cons
A public meeting to discuss wind turbines drew a large crowd on April 25 at the Lenox Community Center. The meeting was hosted by the Taylor County Supervisors. Local residents, as well as residents from Adams, Union, Adair, and Fremont Counties, spoke for and against the turbines. People were given two minutes to voice their opinions.
A representative from Apex Clean Energy talked about their company and the Taylor County project. The company was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va. The company works in utility scale wind and solar projects. They developed Black Maple Wind in summer of 2022. Since their kickoff, they have signed almost 60,000 acres of land and 200 signed households on this project. They are still in the development process and are a long way from knowing where the wind turbines will be going at this time. “It’s unique and exciting that we have signed this amount of landowners,”
said the representative. Currently, they are doing environmental studies and placing met towers around the county to track wind. They will begin placing towers as early as 2025. They plan to host meetings once farmers are done planting and encouraged anyone with questions to contact them at their office at 101 E. Ohio in Lenox.
Rick Barrans family moved to Taylor County in 1964 and bought a farm in 1974 in Nodaway Township. The Des Moines Register did an article in 1988 on the poorest township in the state of Iowa which was Nodaway Township. Barrans said with the talk of changing regulations for turbines, they would not be able to have a turbine on the farm. “That’s taking money out of my mom’s pocket,” said Barrans. The regulations they are talking about would require 3,280 feet setback distance and 35 decibels for windmill noise at 10 p.m., which could mean grain bins would have to be shut down because they are too loud.
Steve Basler said, “We should be able to use our land how we want to and others can use their land how they want to. I don’t always agree how you farm and your farming practice and I’m sure you don’t approve of the way I farm on my farm sometimes. That’s my choice and your choice. If you don’t want a wind turbine, you don’t have to have one.” Basler added that the new property assessments have increased and will increase property taxes. The wind turbines will increase tax revenues for Taylor County.
Sue Basler said that they were undecided when they first heard about the project. They weighed the pros and cons and talked to neighbors, friends and family to gather information before making a decision. “If we want to harvest the wind, we should be able to harvest the wind,” said Sue. Adams County has generated $1.7 million on their tax rolls and it will grow to $2 million. Black Maple Wind wanted to acquire 10,000 acres originally and has now acquired 58,000 acres for this project. “I think that speaks to the desire of the wind project,” concluded Sue.
Kurtis Christensen said he would like to see some protection. A firefighter said they have to stay back 3,000 feet when a turbine is on fire. Wind turbines have to be set back one mile from county parks and he would like to see changes made to the setbacks for the safety of residents.
“We’re seeing a community torn apart because of money,” said Amanda Masilko. She asked who would be liable if a blade came flying off, the landowner? She felt the ordinance in 2020 should have been addressed. She asked the board of supervisors to look at both sides and be fair.
Megan Masilko asked the supervisors to make a decision that would benefit the whole county and change the setback to 3,280 feet from the property line. “It’s your decision today, will you hear the concerns of the whole county and make a decision based on feelings and how you are influenced or will you hear the concerns of the whole county and make a responsible decision that will protect and preserve our rights, privileges and property of all the county residents,” said Megan.
Ted Hardebeck is from Taylor County and has farms and home within the footprint of this project. Taylor County is less than 6,000 population; 100 years ago was over 18,000. The increase in revenue would give Taylor County the opportunity to do a special project every year and did not see any reason to change the ordinance.
Joe McNees lives on a Century Farm south of Guss and is in the middle of this wind project. “I am looking forward to the revenue from this for the fire department in New Market and as a rural renewal project,” said Joe. “As a Century Farm, I am looking forward to passing this land on to my son, guaranteed revenue stream, that would help make it possible.” As a fireman, McNees said they are to stay back from a burning wind turbine 3,000 feet and is the same distance for the gas line that runs through the county. He asked the county not to change the setback distance or place a moratorium.
Ed Douglas has land in the proposed area and does not live there. He said the tax revenues will help the schools, construction from the windmills will help the local businesses.
Diane Lange said they moved away from the Adams County wind farm and now they have another windmill project coming near them. “If you haven’t lived it, you don’t know,” said Diane. “I keep hearing about landowner rights, what about mine? The only thing I’m asking of our supervisors is to consider the setback for the people that aren’t the landowners that don’t want to participate, that’s all we are asking.”
Jeff Lange asked the supervisors to help those with 10 acres, 80 acres, or four acres that don’t want them near their house. “You guys are the only ones who can help us,” said Lange.
Monty Douglas asked the supervisors to do what’s best for Taylor County. “You’re in a game, halfway through the game you can’t change the rules,” said Monty. “Change the rules for next time if that’s what we got to do.”
Judy Wurster, farmer, said when they first started doing turbines, they were much shorter and smaller on propellers. She was worried about pieces and ice flying off from the blades when her family is out in the field. She asked the supervisors to increase the setback.
Sharon Davison shared her experience with the wind turbines. When they first started coming in, they brought in big machinery, like bulldozers, and when they came by their house the whole house shook. They have five wind turbines around them and none of those landowners live there. “This is not a cherry on a sundae,” said Sharon.
Murray and Chris Thornton live west of Bedford. Their lives changed dramatically when the wind turbines went in around them. They did not know they were moving in until about one month before construction. It has created a lot of anxiety for them. “First of all, if you sign a contract without an attorney looking at it, for 30 years?” asked Murray. “You need to look at this and find out what their rights are to your property, you may be sorry in the long run.” Chris said they have lived in their home for 20 years and it is not fun to live there. Gravel trucks ran from 6 a.m. until dusk during construction. She complained about the gravel trucks driving too fast and nothing changed. She asked people to think about their neighbors before putting one up. “Be a decent human being and think about your neighbors,” said Chris.
Chase Weller said they need to look at non-participants. “For us that don’t sign up and are not taking the money, we would like more space,” said Chase. “That’s only fair to ask, we have the right to protect our land. If you have 59,000 acres and you can’t find enough windmills to put in that county with 59,000 acres, and the few of us who don’t want them that close,” said Chase.
Several spoke from other counties. One person from Adams County said their concerns are setback and safety. They have gathered 921 signatures so far on a petition. Another Adams County resident became very emotional when talking about the negative effects she feels the wind turbines had on fertility in her horses. She also stated she has had calves born blind and calves with enlarged hearts. One Union County resident talked about the danger of ice forming on the turbine blades. An Adair County resident said she lives in the footprint of industrial wind and has three turbines within 1800 feet of their home’s foundation. They experience the flicker at nights from the turbines. Another Adair County resident said they have 530 wind turbines in their county. He said the state should be regulating the wind turbines and not the counties.
The county supervisors will schedule another meeting in the near future.