Iowa’s Wind Power At Risk From Local Opposition

Iowa’s amazingly successful development of wind power is facing significant threats from mushrooming local opposition. While the forces opposing wind power remain relatively small, they seem to be increasing in numbers. The reasons cited by these new anti-wind opponents range from simple aesthetics to health risks. Some are opposing new wind turbine construction by complaining that they are an eyesore. They object to turbines that restrict or impair the view from their homes.

Other opponents are citing health risks, damage to farmland, lower property values and bird kills. If the opposition to wind power continues to grow, it has the potential to derail Iowa’s leadership path to a 100% renewable future. It is imperative that wind power advocates answer the concerns and criticisms being raised or Iowa could face severe restrictions or outright bans on the future growth of wind energy.

Wind power has provided huge benefits to all of Iowa but especially in boosting rural development. It has produced 9,000 jobs, millions of dollars in tax revenue and millions of dollars in direct income to landowners.

MidAmerican Energy has invested over $10 billion in building wind energy projects since 2004. They’ve paid over $65 million in taxes to Iowa counties. The largest number of wind turbines in Iowa is in O’Brien County. There are 318 turbines producing $7.3 million in tax revenue to the county. Many of these rural counties have suffered from declining population and stagnant growth. Wind energy projects have assisted these counties by boosting employment and pumped millions of dollars into their local economies.

Wind power has also provided the most efficient and inexpensive alternative to the use of fossil fuels. Electric rates in Iowa are lower than they were 20 years ago before wind power existed. Renewable wind-powered electric generation as an alternative to fossil fuels is unquestionably an effective solution to climate change. Nationally in 2013, wind power prevented the release of 132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would have resulted from burning fossil fuels.

MidAmerican CEO Bill Fehrman compares the clean and green energy from wind versus the much worse environmental impacts from burning fossil fuels as alternative energy sources.

“There’s no perfect way to make electricity,” Fehrman said, adding that coal, natural gas and hydro-electric plants all come with costs and environmental challenges. “We figure out the energy resource that has the lowest impact on the environment, lowest impact on customers and the lowest costs,” he said. “The vast majority of people who live in these rural areas — when they see the opportunities with jobs, investment and taxes — want the projects.”

According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, 92% of Iowans are either positive or neutral in support of increasing wind power projects. Only, 8% of Iowans have negative opinions about wind power. However, this minority is getting very vocal in their opposition to expanding wind power projects.

In August a group of Madison County residents, the Madison County Coalition for Scenic Preservation, joined in opposing a new MidAmerican wind project in their county. A larger group, the Coalition for Rural Property Rights, has a mission statement to, “protecting our Iowa and Minnesota homes and businesses, helping educate landowners about the negative sides of industrial wind energy installations.”

Iowa wind advocates must be prepared to defend further wind expansion from this growing opposition. Admittedly, the opponents raise issues that must be addressed but preventing further growth of clean wind energy sources isn’t the answer. Weighing all the advantages of wind energy, the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience created for neighbors.


by Rick Smith
Posted 10/3/18

5 Comments on "Iowa’s Wind Power At Risk From Local Opposition"

  • Land values plummet. People don’t want to live around them. People don’t like looking at them. Across the world people are condemning wind energy for it’s noise pollution and their danger to our dry crops in the fall and in drought by “rare” fires.

    The wind companies don’t grant landowners rights in the contracts till they are asked about. Shady business tactics that are known about to some but carefully hushed by wind companies. Hustlers of the Midwest that come to destroy your land value in the name of “clean” energy that doesn’t save the community a dime. We pay our electric bills which increase every year and then pay for them through our taxes. Who really benefits?

    Not us.

    Only greedy landowners that dont have to live by them, work by them, and see their robotic red blanking lights pollute our almost pristene night skyline.

    I’m ok with it if I’m wrong. Keep these “green” tax subsidized eye sores far away from our clean wells and beautiful bald eagle habitats. Keep them away from our bats that keep pests at bay when we are enjoying a night outside.

    Robert Kollasch
    5th generation farmer
    Northwest Iowa

  • I’d like to offer a different perspective regarding the piece above.

    I strongly support wind power. However, Iowa has a dubious tradition of sometimes deciding that select rural Iowans should just have to accept whatever brings benefits for everyone else. The statewide hoglot-siting debacle is Exhibit A.

    There are several new industrial wind turbines within two miles of my house. And while it would have been nice to keep seeing open blue skies during the day and night skies without flashing red lights, wind turbine energy is indeed far cleaner than fossil fuel energy, and I fully accept those turbines. And they are more visually appealing than garish neighboring McMansions would be. Anyone in rural Iowa who is concerned about aesthetics needs to understand that the only land you control is your own.

    But turbines do cause noise and shadow flickering, both real problems. And there are certain risks, such as ice throw. I would not be at all happy if a 400-foot-high industrial wind turbine was proposed for 300 feet from my house, and I’d fight to stop it. That doesn’t mean I don’t support wind power.

    The biggest industrial wind turbine conflicts in rural Iowa are over setback requirements. The same setback conflicts are playing out in other U.S. states and in Canada. I heard that in one Iowa county, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended instituting a requirement of a half-mile setback from the nearest residence. But when wind industry representatives objected, the Board of Supervisors decided that the setback requirement would be far smaller. That’s one way to increase local opposition to wind power.

    I want Iowa’s wind energy industry to thrive. I really don’t want it to be “at risk.” But I would also be concerned about any possibility of the State of Iowa doing for the wind industry what has already been done for the hoglot industry — essentially saying “Locate your facilities wherever you want and we’ll make sure local governments and residents have no power to even try to stop you.”

    There is no turbine siting solution that will make everyone happy. But the best and fairest possible compromises need to be sought.

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