Iowa County Considers Moratorium On New Wind Turbines In Response to Health Concerns

Source: By Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio • Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2019

At least two dozen people expressed concerns to the Madison County Board of Supervisors Tuesday about an ordinance that would halt the construction of wind turbines for at least two years.

The proposed ordinance has come in response to concerns about potential health impacts from the turbines from the county board of health.

The board has recommended that turbines be built at least a mile and a half from houses.

The county ordinance also proposed a moratorium to halt construction of commercial solar energy systems until 2022.

However, the board voted Tuesday to change the end the moratorium to October of 2020.

Residents of Madison and surrounding counties crowded the small room in Winterset for the meeting. Some were holding signs and wearing buttons in opposition to the turbines.

Winterset resident Alan Lange told the board he supports clean energy systems like wind farms, but he thinks the county needs more time to study their effects.

“I do think that it’s time to take a step back and consider the concerns that the community has brought forth. I don’t feel that we are in a rush to develop our countryside into clean energy,” Lange said.

Some residents told the board that the moratorium’s original two year timeline is too long for the county to establish a policy on turbines.

“You can see how contentious this debate is right now,” said Kevin Johnson, who also lives in Winterset. “You’re going to allow this to continue to fester for another two years as you try to set up these ordinances.”

Kerri Johannsen, the Energy Program Director with the Iowa Environmental Council, said she also feels the proposed two year halt on the construction of renewable energy system is too long, and questioned why the ordinance also includes a mortorium on solar energy systems.

“A lot of the conversation has been around wind, and there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about solar to this point. So I am wondering the reason for throwing that in the ordinance,” Johannsen said.

Adam Jablonski, the director of renewable energy for MidAmerican Energy Company, which is building a 52-turbine wind farm in Madison County, wrote a letter to board president Aaron Price last month questioning the board of health’s health concerns and building recommendations.

Jablonski said MidAmerican Energy was unable to find a reference to a 1.25 mile setback recommendation in a World Health Organization report that board of health members said was their basis for their recommendation.

“MidAmerican Energy urges the Board of Supervisors to challenge the BOH to identify the actual basis for its recommendation, and carefully consider whether the BOH’s recommendation has a scientific basis related to health concerns,” Jablonski wrote.

The company’s project would not be affected by the moratorium because its application was approved before January 1 this year, as outlined in the ordinance.

Wind power has become a significant energy source for Iowans in recent years. The state produces more than a third of its electricity from wind, the highest percentage in the nation, according to the Iowa Environment Council.

Last month, Gov. Kim Reynolds declined to take a position on whether she thinks wind turbines cause health issues.

There is no scientific consensus on whether turbines cause health issues. The ordinance is set to go into effect in October.