Iowa Wind Energy Under Attack By Disinformation Campaign

A very small but vocal group, Coalition for Rural Property Rights, is attacking Iowa’s clean renewable wind industry. This coalition of anti-wind energy fanatics have convinced some Republicans in the Iowa Senate to sponsor a bill that could severely damage Iowa’s wind industry. The bill SF 361 sponsored by Waylon Brown (R-St Ansgar) would increase the minimum distance a wind turbine can be placed from an adjacent property line, increasing the distance to 1,250 feet.

It seems designed to be a way to kill the wind industry. Setting unreasonably large setbacks will severely limit the potential sites available for future turbines.

The Iowa Environmental Council recommends no more than 600 feet setback of turbines from adjacent property lines. They also recommend setbacks are best left to the discretion of local control by county supervisors rather than mandated by the state. Once again, Republicans are dismissing local control and demanding legislative mandates.

A representative of the Environmental Law and Policy Center estimated that the increase in distance to 1250 feet would have prevented a large number of the current wind turbines to be erected.

The Coalition for Rural Property Rights are using unproven and bogus claims with a laundry list of alleged health risks associated with living in proximity to wind turbines. They claim turbine-created noise, light flickering and blade motion cause all these maladies to neighbors of wind turbines. Their misinformation list includes hearing loss, nausea, headaches, blurred vision, sleep deprivation, seizures, panic attacks, muscle and joint pain, memory loss, chronic fatigue, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

They don’t seem to present any credible scientific evidence to support any of their claims, yet they persist in their daily misguided attacks. One of their more humorous recent Facebook posts included an article blaming a cattle stampede on wind turbines. What’s next? Do Wind turbines cause pigs to fly?

In an effort to counter some of these ridiculous claims, a joint health report on wind turbines was released by the Iowa Environmental Council, University of Iowa’s Environmental Health Sciences Research Center and Iowa Policy Project. That report released in January specifically looked at 32 different health complaints associated with wind turbines. They summed up the findings by saying some wind turbine neighbors might be annoyed, but there are no harmful health effects.

“There’s no evidence of hearing loss associated with wind, really no evidence of stress or other health outcomes, limited evidence for sleep disturbance, but really where there is sufficient evidence, according to these authoritative sources we’ve studied, is feelings of annoyance,” said Peter Thorne, head of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa.

“The feelings of annoyance are not likely due to the sound … but they’re due to peoples’ perceptions about wind energy or viewsheds, not directly related to the wind turbine noise itself,” Thorne added.

The report is based on research by the Council of Canadian Academies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Coalition for Rural Property Rights dismissed the Iowa Policy Project’s scientific health research as, “Trivial reports produced by agenda-driven researchers in Iowa.”

Iowa Republicans should be doing everything possible to build on the tremendous benefits that the Iowa wind industry has delivered to Iowa. It provides 9,000 good paying Iowa jobs and that number will grow to 15,000 by 2020, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association. Iowa counties benefit from millions of dollars in property taxes; landowners are paid millions of dollars in lease payments; and Iowa consumers benefit from cheap, clean and renewable electricity generation.

A study led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that more than 9 in 10 people who live close to wind turbines view them positively or neutrally.  Clearly the opponents of wind turbines represent an insignificant but very loud minority of Iowans.

Iowa’s wind industry is nationally recognized as leading the nation in producing the highest percentage of electricity (37%) by wind of any state. MidAmerican Energy is scheduled to reach 100% of their equivalent electrical energy demand by 2021. As the debate over climate action in the presidential contest heats up, Iowa will be looked to for their national leadership in championing wind and solar. This is certainly not the time to damage our national reputation in solving the coming climate crisis.

We must not allow a small group of misguided anti-wind zealots from spreading disinformation in an attempt to disrupt Iowa’s successful wind energy industry. Iowans must oppose SF 361 and other efforts to damage Iowa’s solar and wind leadership.


by Rick Smith
Posted 3/6/19

15 Comments on "Iowa Wind Energy Under Attack By Disinformation Campaign"

  • I really wonder what these “small government” Republicans have against local control? And they REALLY want to decimate a source of energy that provides better than 30% (is 37% accurate, Rick?) of our energy WITHOUT burniung a drop of fossil fuel or splitting a single atom?
    Heck, even the fossil fuel companies, seeing the handwriting on the wall (or at least where their next buck is comng from) are investing in and quietly promoting alternastive energies – like wind!
    Is it that they are AGAINST everything? Against wind, against public education, against locally-set minimum wage, against increasing voter turnout, against expanding public land, against small farmer…what the heck are they FOR?

    • What the heck are they for? I’m for peaceful country living, the same as when I bought my property. I’m for keeping my children, family, and livestock safe. I’m for staying where my husband grew up in and that his family settled in from Europe. I’m for staying in a home and town where my visually impaired family members knows and can be independent in. I’m for staying in my home that I have been blessed to have raised 26 children plus 2 of my own children in that have created tons of memories. I’m for being a good neighbor. I am for “green energy” that does not provide a nuisance to neighboring properties. What am I not for? I’m not for living by something as tall as the St. Louis Archway with spinning blades going 80+ mph, 500 feet from my property line (as set by the wind turbine companies). I’m not for large industrial corporations coming in and making their own guidelines and rules, because our county supervisors refuse to. I’m not for trespass zoning. I’m not for allowing others to make a nuisance on my property for their profit. I’m not for “green energy” that is a nuisance to neighboring property.

    • Local control??? My supervisors refuse to implement any regulations on wind companies. This is Worth County. No required setbacks, no decommissioning regulations, nothing. Former senator, and now former supervisor Merlin Bartz even wrote a resolution banning any future regulations! Of course he had plans for the TIF money from the turbines.

  • Good article, Rick. When these anti-wind people began shouting, it was hard to understand their motivations as having anything to do with rationality. However, now that we’ve heard them shout, a reasonable person could conclude that their issue is primarily being left out of receiving the flowing cash.

    • As opposed to people who could have cared less about renewable energy until a wind developer dangled a lease and promise of great wealth in their face? Wind development is being fought all over the country by people who were offered a lease but refused to sign away their land rights.

    • Not so. Most of us are farmers. We could have signed up. We have learned from our neighbors that have them. I have personally polled landowners in the proposed Worthwhile Wind Project. 85-90% opposed. These companies running roughshod over the rural areas. Wind energy is a boondoggle.

  • Let’s see—a half section of farm land would be only 2640 feet wide if it was also a mile long. If the wind tower has to be 1250 feet from each edge of the property, the allowed location would be only a narrow strip down the middle of the farm. In short, only 9 acres of the 320 acres in the parcel.

    Half section plots are rare in my windy county of NW Iowa. Most plots are smaller. This bill would spell the end of Iowa wind energy growth.

    • If you believe this bill would spell the end of Iowa Wind Energy Growth, then I highly suggest that you do more research! American Wind Energy association along with some top notch professionals put out a “promotional video” talking about how Michigan has done great things with wind power, and how it is expanding wonderfully with great community support. They speak of it working great in Gratiot County Michigan. Upon looking into this, Gratiot County Michigan has 12 pages total of wind turbine regulations! These regulations include a 2500ft setback from property lines, no more than 30 hours a year worth of flickering onto neighboring homes, and many other great regulations in place! This hasn’t ended turbines for this county, but instead has helped it. The wind companies now have to work with everyone including landowners and non-participating land owners.

  • What we actually want is setbacks of 1/2 mile from property lines because that is the area defined by the wind companies as their “project area”. If they have as much support that they say they do they can get waivers and this won’t be a problem. I wonder also if you would like “the other side of the story” or do you just want to print your own version of the “facts”? I promise you that we back up all we say with documentation. Also, we are not small and we are statewide and we have far more support than you might think.

  • Who are you Rick Smith? What is your background? What is your occupation? Do you live by Industrial Wind Turbines? Just trying to establish credibility .

  • If the opposition was truly localized, there MIGHT be a point to the brushing off of their opinions. However, this is not just local, its literally international. Even the WHO has concluded that turbines can and do cause health issues.
    My personal issue is with the unconstitutional seizure of my property. No private company or county government has the right to take my property in any way without fair compensation as set by market prices. Why should I have to live with my family in the zone that is marked as unsafe to enter in the event of a failure with the turbine? Why should I have to forfeit my right to build on my property just because my neighbor wants a turbine? Finally, if I wanted to live in an industrial zone, why wouldnt I have stayed in the city?

  • Please provide your reference to the LBNL report. According to the 2018 study by LBNL, 28 percent of
    residents living within one-half mile of the turbines, which were not compensated by the project, had very negative or negative attitudes toward the turbines. (“National Survey of Attitudes of Wind Power Project Neighbors: Summary of Results.”

  • Seriously 600 ft setbacks? Anyone making that suggestion has absolutely no credibility. 1250 ft setbacks from property lines is still far short of safe. The absolute minimum safe distance is 4 times tip height. Maximum noise levels 45 dba LAMAX at property lines. On a 499 foot turbine, the blades are 192 feet long, at a hub speed of 15 miles per hour, the blades are traveling approximately 200 mph. Ice throw has been recorded over 1000 feet. Debris field 1800 feet. No one has the right to put people in a danger zone that has not agreed to sign away their property rights.

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