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Western Iowa Wind Projects Worry Some Residents

Courtesy of Invenergy
Invenergy's Victory Wind Farm in Carroll County, IA

Some western Iowa residents say they’re concerned about wind projects being planned nearby. Energy developer Invenergy is planning almost 170 wind turbines in Sac and Ida counties.
According to Invenergy, the planned Sac and Ida county wind farms could produce enough energy to power about 90,000 homes each year. The projects’ permits are still being reviewed in both counties. Invenergy’s goal is to have them up and running between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020.

But some rural residents say they’re concerned about noise and the view of large turbines on the horizon. Mason Fleenor, an Ida County farmer who lives near an Ida Grove wind farm, said the turbines are loud.

“If you know anything about cattle, when it’s real windy, cattle don’t work real good in the wind. They can’t hear what’s going on around them,” Fleenor said. “I’m the same way. I don’t like to listen to these things every day.”

According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association’s website, the state has more than 4,000 wind turbines and more than 7,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity. Nearly 40 percent of the state’s electricity is produced from wind. But Janna Swanson, a Clay County farmer and a board member for the Coalition for Rural Property Rights, said wind farms bring a lot of disadvantages to rural residents.

“They [wind companies] ask you to put up with noise, vibration, air turbulence and wake, and I say to myself, ‘noise, vibration, air turbulence and wake; what all does that mean?” she said. “A lot of people that have abandoned their homes because living too close to wind turbines, have talked about infrasound. It is just basically a pulsing that comes off of the wind turbine…”

She continued, “I think we need to err on the side of caution when it comes to peoples’ homes.”

Invenergy developed another wind farm in Ida County that’s been operating for about two years. After phase I was complete, about 500 residents petitioned the county to have wind turbines be at least one mile away from a home. Ida County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rhett Leonard said the county’s Planning and Zoning board reviewed an ordinance about wind energy and changed it from a 1,250-foot distance to a 1,500-foot distance away from a home. The 1,500-foot distance is equivalent to less than one-third of a mile.

The county’s code also says wind turbines must be placed so that shadow flickering caused by sunlight shining through rotating blades does not exceed 30 hours per year on an occupied building.  

Leonard said he has heard from residents both for and against large wind farms. One benefit to the county in having the them, he said, is revenue from the turbine property tax benefits projects to rebuild roads and deteriorating infrastructure.

“We were to the point where our roads and infrastructures were deteriorating so quickly and it’s such a high-priced item to replace and maintain that we were getting to the point where we weren’t sure what we were going to do with these,” Leonard said.

The county estimates it receives more than $2.4 million per year “when taxed at the full 30 percent allowed by the law” Leonard said.

Invenergy spokeswoman Beth Conley said in an email that wind farm developments undergo thorough review processes with public comment. The company works with landowners across all of its projects in the state, and participating landowners receive yearly payments, she said. 

“Wind farms are built where landowners voluntarily participate and have signed easements, or leases, for a wind turbine to be placed on their property,” Conley said.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.