Wind turbines see blowback in the Iowa Great Lakes area

Source: By Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio • Posted: Thursday, September 21, 2023

Dozens of wind turbines are seen along Interstate 80 in Adair County, Iowa.

Clay Masters/IPR file Iowa has more than 6,000 wind turbines.

Aaron Janssen owns a home and wedding venue on his property east of Milford.

He’s skeptical of newly proposed wind turbines. The renewable energy generators are a familiar sight dotted across the Iowa landscape, but the new turbines being proposed in Janssen’s area are taller than before. He says Dickinson County needs to modernize its setbacks, as the current regulation written in 2009 that says turbines must be built 1,200 feet away from a property is outdated.

Aaron Janssen converted a Brown Swiss Cattle operation into a wedding venue called Swiss Acres.

Aaron Janssen. Aaron Janssen converted a Brown Swiss Cattle operation into a wedding venue called Swiss Acres.

“For the scale, and the size of these turbines, consequences come with it,” he said. “Just between blade ice throw, the shadow, flicker, noise; you know, some of those things that people have experienced with these turbines being too close to their home.”

Janssen, who is a member of the grassroots group Dickinson County Concerned Citizens, or DC3, serves on a planning and zoning subcommittee looking into the issue.

“We’re looking for what’s going to protect both nonparticipating landowners while also respecting those who are looking to put turbines up, because at the end of the day, if we’re not saying ‘no’ to turbines, we’re just saying, ‘Hey, just give us our property rights’ just like the individuals who signed up for them are,” he added.

DC3 plans to hold a community meeting on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Arrowwood Resort in Okoboji to raise awareness.

“We’ve kind of been at it for maybe four months now. But it’s kind of amazing, even with the technology and all the media that’s out there, that some people are just finding out about it,” he said. “I found out about a month or two ago.”

Dickinson County Zoning and Environmental Health Administrator Megan Kardell told IPR News that turbine producer Invenergy filed for a permit to build up to 101 turbines on Sept. 8. The Dickinson County Board of Adjustment plans a public hearing and possible vote on the application on Oct. 23.

Director of Renewable Development at Invenerygy, Kate Millar, said the company’s Red Rock Wind Energy Center is a proposed 300-megawatt wind power generation facility that will include up to 89 turbines in Dickinson and Emmet Counties. The turbine size may range from 168 to 180 meters.

Millar said the project is a way to collaborate with local project founders to bring economic benefits to northwest Iowans.

Other counties across the state have modified their rules regarding wind turbines. Woodbury County banned them within two miles of city limits and doubled the setback length to 2,500 feet away from property.

A wind farm project by MidAmerican Energy in Woodbury County is still in the early stages of development. Spokesperson Geoff Greenwood said the company is continuing to meet with landowners and has signed voluntary agreements with more than 80 landowners.

Last year, another project planned for Madison County was scrapped by MidAmerican Energy after a rule change resulted in a reduction in the number that could legally be constructed. After the Madison County Board of Adjustment approved its Arbor Hill project, the board of supervisors passed a new ordinance. Greenwood said MidAmerican filed a lawsuit and reached a settlement in the case.

Radio Iowa reports a lawyer for Invenergy said the company has spent millions of dollars following the current rules. Critics say without a moratorium issued by the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors, Invenergy will likely receive the permit while a review of the current ordinance is underway.