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What will happen when wind turbines arrive in Fillmore County?

Fri, Dec 12th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Earlier this year EcoEnergy, a French-owned corporation with a regional office in Harmony, erected several wind measurement towers between Greenleafton and Harmony. More than 30,000 acres of Fillmore County farmland has been signed up to allow 400' wind turbines to be constructed, along with liberal easement rights to access them.

Driving through a wind turbine "farm" near McIntire, IA is quite an eye-opening experience. The towers are a looming foreign-like oddity, connected by a network of access roads through productive farmland. At night, hundreds of red beacons stretch to the horizon; all synchronized on then off, creating an extra-terrestrial look to the countryside. Locals near McIntire express regret and remain upset at the new landscape dominating the area.

Concern has gotten more serious closer to home as Fillmore County residents are discovering the shear enormity and proximity of EcoEnergy's proposed wind farm. Corporate salesmen have secured wind rights on farms and continue to aggressively seek more acres nearing "Bluff Country": rolling hills, streams, sinkholes, woods, and highly erodible farmland. Turbines will sprout from Greenleafton to Harmony and then on to Canton. Public hearings will be scheduled when the permitting process begins. This is the time to question the need for a wind farm that would violate the beauty-- truly unique beauty-- to this corner of Southeastern Minnesota.

Are there any benefits to those who reside here?

1. Wind turbines are a big visual problem during the day.

2. Red flashing lights will dominate the night-time skies.

3. Taxpayers foot the bill. The Federal Production Tax Credit subsidizes 1/3 of the break-even costs of wind turbines for 10 years. Add IRS tax breaks and the feds pays up to 2/3 of a wind power project. State incentives can pay for another 10%.

4. Commercial wind is not cheap. The electricity produced by this wind farm will not stay local and will not lower our bills in Fillmore County. Expenses may actually go up. Xcel Energy customers already see extra fees and charges on their electric bills to pay for expensive new upgrades necessary to absorb the complex grid balancing and transmission of power due to wind energy's intermittent and unpredictable nature.

6. Wind turbines reduce property values. There is a long, well-documented history of loss for those close to wind farms; up to 30-percent in the first 2 years after completion of the project.

7. Divisive land-use issues in farm communities. Wind farms often bring resentment among those who see the impressively huge turbines as an intrusion to the "idyllic" country setting they now enjoy. Also, much of the land near Harmony is highly erodible. Easements allow networks of 30 foot wide access roads to be constructed, creating new threats to the Root River watershed.

8. Setbacks currently require only 750 feet to the nearest dwelling. Wind-experienced Europeans are now demanding up to one mile setbacks to for newly constructed turbines.

9. Wind turbines are loud. The blade and gear noise is especially intrusive in rural areas where sound levels are normally low, even more so at night.

10. The effects on tourism? Hiding behind the word green, wind energy corporations are slamming the American taxpayer as they take advantage of subsidies and tax breaks to build on an energy source that is expensive and inefficient. EcoEnergy is here to sign up as much land as possible, to erect as many turbines as possible, so they can make as much money as possible.

Wind turbine energy is quickly becoming a very controversial topic. Information can be found on the internet. Go to I hope this will be the start of constructive discussion and public awareness, focusing attention on a permanent new "industrialized" look that will be defining the farm country here in Fillmore County.

Brian Huggenvik lives near Big Springs and is a native of Fillmore County.

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