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Wind farms in Fillmore County are a plus


Fri, Jan 23rd, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Over the past several decades we have developed an insatiable appetite for all that is electronic. This trend is not likely to be abated. Things that we now take for granted like central air conditioning, cordless phones, garage door openers, computers, and video games all contribute. Everything that has a remote control device or a digital clock is consuming electricity 24-7. Granted, these devices draw small amounts of power when the units are off. However, multiply these numerous power draws in every home by hundreds of millions of households and we have a significant idle waste of electric power.

We could go back to opening our garage door by hand or getting up off the couch to change the channel on the TV or give up video games, but I don't look for that to happen. It is a safe assumption that electrical use per capita will only increase in the future.

What To Do?

Most of you have probably seen Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens in ads promoting wind energy in an overall plan to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. I think we all could agree that a reduction in the usage of foreign oil would be a positive. The conflict comes in how to get there. The introduction of large wind farms into Fillmore County will be seen by some as an unwelcome intrusion into their chosen life style.

We all want electricity to be readily available and affordable. Currently, we get most of our electrical power through coal, natural gas, nuclear or hydroelectric powered plants. The dominant source of power for us is coal.

Coal is a reliable, steady source, very abundant in the United States and affordable. However, the positives generally end there. Even if the state of Minnesota manages to meet its goal set in 2005 of 25% renewable sources for electricity by 2025, we still need coal fired plants to fill in when mother nature fails to cooperate and turns off the wind.

That said, look at the massive negatives of coal. Unless a truly clean technology is developed, coal will remain a highly polluting form of energy production. Energy is consumed to mine and transport coal. The EPA recognizes that coal powered plants can release hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonia, and hydrogen fluoride, lead, nickel and mercury compounds and other chemicals which can cause cancer. It notes that coal plants can be operated to somewhat "reduce" these emissions.

Setting aside the argument whether or not there are human induced causes affecting climate change, we all surely can agree that toxins being emitted into the atmosphere as listed above should surely be limited as much as possible, if not for the health of the planet, for our own personal health.

Research has suggested that nuclear powered plants may be linked to increased rates of childhood leukemia for children raised in the vicinity of a plant and there is the problem of radioactive waste.

Natural gas is much cleaner than coal but is a nonrenewable source and there are emissions of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide and to a lesser extent sulfur and mercury compounds.

Concerns have been raised over the high voltage power lines that are necessary to transfer the electricity from rural wind farms to cities. There has not been any proven link established to my knowledge between electromagnetic fields and cancer, although there are many who believe there is a link. There is conflicting information and ongoing research on this subject.

In contrast to the multiple negatives of the alternative sources of electricity, the greatest negative for wind power for some is the visual assault on the beauty that is Fillmore County.

Minnesota ranks ninth in the United States for its potential in wind energy. It currently ranks fourth in its output of wind energy. Both Minnesota and the federal government have provided incentives in the form of tax credits and/or tax breaks to encourage companies to develop wind energy.

Advantages for

Fillmore County

Revenues derived from wind farms within the county should help boost the county budget which could potentially reduce the property tax burden on the rest of us. Wind farms by law are exempt from property taxes. However, they are subject to a production tax of .12 per kilowatt hour produced. Production payment taxes will be paid to the county just as if they were property taxes. Since 2006, 80% goes to the county where the wind farm is located, 14% to cities and townships, and 6 % to the school district. Unfortunately, the 6% to the school district is now required to be turned back to the state to be redistributed equally among all the state's school districts.

Wind farms will help free us of a nearly total dependence on fossil fuels, provide skilled jobs and provide a reliable cash income for participating land owners.

Get Involved

Later this year there should be a public hearing as required on a proposed wind farm in the Harmony area. We should keep informed and participate.

Our voracious appetite for electrical power requires that we make difficult choices that are in the best interest of all of us today and for the future occupants of our planet. I choose that which inflicts the least damage to our environment, as there is no perfect answer. I see wind farms in Fillmore County as a net plus.

Karen Reisner writes about local government for the Fillmore County Journal. She can be reached at news@fillmorecountyjournal.com

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