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Rural counties fight back against push for more wind turbines

Fight in Tama County, Iowa is an example of a resistance forming nationwide.
Germany Energy Transition
Posted at 4:00 AM, Feb 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-09 07:11:42-05

TAMA COUNTY, IOWA — It's no secret that the White House and many environmentalists want to build more wind projects around the country.

From offshore sites to new wind turbines on farmland, it's a push that has some big dollars behind it.

In fact, over $370 billion in taxpayer money is set to be spent on clean energy projects, like wind, in the coming years.

RURAL RESISTANCE

Not every American is eager to welcome wind turbines, however.

Meet Jon Winkelpleck of Tama County, Iowa.

"If you want one, you live beside it," Winkelpleck told Scripps News.

Winkelpleck is part of a growing anti-wind movement in the United States — farmers and ranchers standing up against those who want to build more wind turbines.

Oftentimes the request to build more occurs in rural counties in the United States, where there is a lot of wind and available land.

"The folks who are signing up for these turbines are not putting them up by their house," Winkelpleck said.

Winkelpleck says his land is meant for cattle and corn, not turbines and transformers.

"These huge industrial wind turbines you will see for miles," Winkelpleck said.

"It's our job to protect our farmland," Winkelpleck added.

Winkelpleck isn't alone in his opposition.

If you go on to Facebook, you'll find over 1,200 members of the group "Tama County Against Turbines."

Heather Knebel, a Tama County resident, stays informed through social media posts and scheduled meetups that are posted in the group. It's also where she has learned about possible safety risks from ice developing on the blades of turbines during winter.

To be clear, the wind industry says ice can form but de-icing solutions do exist.

"It's Iowa; we are going to get weather," Knebel said.

"When I heard that, I said 'holy cow, I didn't know that existed,'" Knebel added.

NATIONWIDE ISSUE

If you think Tama County's wind problem is just an issue in one small, rural part of the country, you'd be wrong.

Similar fights are underway in Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and other states.

With President Joe Biden and other officials hoping newly created tax credits will spur wind development in the coming years, small-town opposition is quickly becoming a big problem.

In Tama County, for instance, the landowner has to sign off before anything can be built.

EDUCATION NEEDED

Kathy Law is a farmer and an attorney who represents the wind industry in Iowa.

"The technology just gets better with time," Law said.

"I think education is a big piece," Law added.

Law believes misinformation is an issue, something that is easy to spread online. Wind, she says, is safe, and with some parts of rural America worried about the future of their economies, wind represents cash.

Farmers can be paid a couple of thousand dollars a year for putting just one turbine up.

"Farming is good right now in Iowa, but when commodity prices are lower or land prices are lower, it's a great extra source of income for the farmer," Law said.

"It's just another crop we can crow," Law added.

As for Winkelpleck, it doesn't appear anything will change his mind, even though wind developers keep calling him to gain access to his land.

"We aren't interested," Winkelpleck said.