Understanding Wind System Proposal in Iowa and Lafayette Counties

Wind developers are making their way through large parts of Iowa and Lafayette counties persuading landowners to sign lease easements for large industrial wind turbines (WTs). What Pattern Energies is proposing is to site a 300 MW WT project of approximately 86 WTs. While Patterns’ sales associates have a talent for making land owners believe this is a good deal for them, I would suggest extreme caution before signing anything, and have an attorney (familiar with these matters), review the documents. WT’s have many downsides, including extreme noise, health effects, property value losses, land use issues for participants and their neighbors and community issues such as loss of tourism.

Having complete information is essential to making a decision that you won’t regret. The decisions that landowners make, will affect their neighbors and community. I encourage landowners:

  • Not to sign;
  • To demand that their county update their ordinance on wind systems to include all the protections outlined in the state code (PSC 128);
  • Ask your county or town to hold a public information meeting, prior to the Patterns’ application being filed (this can be done safely using Zoom electronic conferencing);
  • Share information with your neighbors.

The WTs being proposed are approximately 600-700’ tall (twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty), and would be seen 30 miles away. They create high noise levels and cause shadow flicker (that can cause headaches), air pulses (that can cause nausea) and stray voltage. Construction and maintenance activities cause soil compaction and damage agricultural drainage. Land use can be severely restricted for both leasing landowners and their neighbors. The actual turbine location (once determined by Pattern) defines where new construction is possible or restricted.

If Pattern is able to push this project through without residents being fully informed and with county ordinances in place that do not protect landowners, residents will be living with the repercussions for at least 40 years.

One might ask “What can local governments do for me if I have questions or concerns? Your local government may not be planning to offer anything prior to Pattern filing an application. If citizens want to have input and get information prior to the application, they will have to ask for a public information meeting. It is important that your County government update their wind system ordinance based on state code (PSC 128). If county governments do not act, and their ordinance does not include all of the measures that the state code outlines to protect citizens, then citizens will not receive those protections. Iowa County does have a Wind System ordinance, but their ordinance fails to include any of the protections for citizens except how close a WT can be placed to structures or property lines. Municipal governments can enact similar ordinances, which would offer residents some protections if their county fails to act.

Citizens may wonder “Do the requirements in the state code protect me and my community?” Sadly, PSC 128 provides minimal protections and most are complaint processes for problems that have already occurred after WTs are in place. State code does place limits on distance (set-backs), noise and shadow flicker.

At a meeting of the Iowa County Executive Committee on September 8th, when a County Supervisor inquired about keeping the public informed, and posed: “Probably because of COVID, there won’t be any public information meetings until they’ve got this all wrapped up, and then they’ll tell people?” Chairman Meyers said “Yes, correct.” With respect to questions citizens are asking supervisors, Meyers stated “They should be calling Pattern”. Pattern has no motivation to identify issues for the public that may cause them to be concerned. Meyers also noted with regard to the technical details of siting WTs, “I do it on a daily basis” referring to his professional connection. This connection raises the issue of conflicts of interest that should concern citizens.

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