Wallaces Farmer

Wind turbines need mandatory setbacks

“Rural Iowa has no power, no voice in protecting their homes and businesses.”

February 25, 2019

3 Min Read
GENERATING CONTROVERSY: Rules for locating wind turbines a minimum distance from houses are being proposed for Iowa.

Editor’s note: Janna Swanson is president of the Coalition for Rural Property Rights, a member of the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance and a board member of National Wind Watch. 


By Janna Swanson 

The Coalition for Rural Property Rights is a large statewide, grassroots group of residents, farmers and landowners standing against the onslaught of industrial wind.

Fayette County residents filed a lawsuit to have their wind turbines removed. Residents of Palo Alto County have filed suit that would require wind installations to go through the approval process of the Iowa Utilities Board. Madison County residents are asking that for anyone to receive a variance for turbines, the law must be followed. A variance requires a landowner prove hardship, that the proposal will not significantly change the landscape and cause no harm to neighbors. Black Hawk County residents have a lawsuit speaking to the taking of our world-class farm ground for industrial pursuits.

Most people who sign for wind turbines will not be living next to a wind turbine. Wind turbine setbacks from residences in Iowa are between 1,200 and 1,600 feet. Wind developers are offering contracts to residents within 2,640 feet of any turbine asking them to put up with shadow flicker, visual blight, electromagnetic and frequency interference, noise, vibration, air turbulence, and wake. Worldwide, people living near wind turbines have reported adverse effects from these impacts.

Legislation being considered
HF 193, introduced in the Iowa House earlier this session, would require 2,500-foot setbacks from residential properties. The wind industry argues they cannot build with that sort of “restriction,” though they also say the communities give them great support. The only restriction would be for them to negotiate a waiver by offering appropriate compensation for what they need to take for their project. This would follow the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

Most farmers are required to rent some land to make ends meet. Farmers who rent ground are being asked to sign tenant agreements to allow a wind company to build on ground a tenant has leased. It puts the tenant’s business on the land in subordination to the wind company’s activities. If a tenant does not wish to sign this agreement, MidAmerican Energy is sending out letters suggesting that landowners find a new tenant. This sort of intimidation is the reason many farmers are unwilling to voice their objection to these projects.

We are told that wind turbines are “green,” yet during construction they compact our soil so deeply the damage has been reported to have lasted well over a decade so far. The heavy machinery installing the turbines breaks our drainage tile causing erosion. Wind turbines kill so many of our birds and bats that MidAmerican has applied for a permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to kill them. Wind turbines now cover over 1 million of Iowa’s acres, more than three entire counties in total area.

Some people believe wind turbines are helping us mitigate climate change. The American Wind Energy Association says wind turbines avoid 189 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. According to statista.com, manmade carbon dioxide equals 35 billion to 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally. Wind turbines are avoiding far less than 1% of manmade carbon dioxide.

MidAmerican Energy has openly admitted they will receive $10 billion in tax credits for building industrial wind turbines. That is roughly $4 million per turbine paid by the government. This allows our investor-owned utilities to build hundreds of miles of new powerlines, taking our land by eminent domain. It is called the Averch-Johnson Effect.

Rural residents are fighting these developments worldwide, yet many Iowa officials and landowners haven’t listened to these residents. Wind turbines are not fiscally responsible, and they violate the property rights of Iowans. We must have this conversation.  

Swanson farms with her family at Ayrshire in northwest Iowa.

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