If I have learned anything over the last two years, it is to make sure I am going directly to a source. It has been worth my time and energy to meet face to face with local leaders to get the facts. In my experience rumors and half-truths have hurt my community and many others like it. When I heard about the Freeborn Wind Farm, I did not immediately think it would affect me. It wasn’t going in my backyard so why should I care if this comes or goes.
When Mariah Lynne from Good Steward Consulting asked me where I stood on the issue, I cringed. I wasn’t sure where I stood, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take a controversial stand. I am not afraid of the truth, but rocking the boat is not my favorite thing to do. Although if it means something will improve, offer problem-solving solutions and make life better overall. I cannot ignore it.
I am also well aware that not everyone is going to be standing at Albert Lea’s corridor with baked goods, a red carpet, and opening arms. I can, however, make sure you have the facts. Facts that impact all of us not only in Freeborn County but the southern Minnesota Communities surrounding us.
This project is expected to employ (create jobs) for as many as 200 people! That is 200 people who will stay in our hotel’s, eat at our restaurants, have their oil changed, and fall in love with our community. We have the opportunity to put our best foot forward and invite them to stay. After construction, it will employ about ten full-time employees. Employees who will need to purchase a home put their kids in our schools and become members of our community.
I know farming can be a tough business and for some breaking even is a success. With a wind turbine on the farmer’s property, it can mean the difference between providing dance lessons, horse riding lessons, summer camp or other expenses that come along with a family. This project will bring $70 million in landowner payments and over $40 million in property tax payments. This creates money in the farmer’s pockets, which then spreads to the rest of community.
Another reason I love this project is that I know other site selectors are watching our community. They are watching for how well we the community (not just our leaders) will roll out the red carpet. How hard do we make it for our Economic Development negotiate contracts? Do we second guess every decision a business will make in our community? When we open our arms to the Freeborn Wind Farm, we are in essence opening our arms to other companies too.
So, what are the facts about the wind farm? Also, what are the concerns, as there are with every project? I was relieved to hear Invenergy has already thought of them as well. So has Freeborn county and the state.
So here are the facts and answers to your many questions.
- Setbacks – things that Invenergy has to have in place to be up to the standards set by the county, state and federal government.
- Wind Access Buffer (property line setbacks) of 3×5 rotor diameters, 1140-1902 feet
- Residential setbacks of at least 1,000 ft
- ½ mile from Municipality, churches, campgrounds, etc.
- 1.1x total height (500) from transmission lines, communication towers, public roads, and trails, railroads
- Sound and Flicker limited
- 3x rotor diameter from USFWS types III, IV and V wetlands
- 50 feet from open public ditch
- 30 feet from buried public drain tile
Invenergy also knows there are sound and health concerns. These too, they have taken seriously.
- Limited to 50 dBA by state law and Freeborn County Ordinance
- Our model shows max of 49 dBA at home and the vast majority of homes below that
- Ambient monitoring shows area sound levels are 44-51 dBA now on windy days
- Infrasound of low-frequency noise has not been shown to be unique to wind turbines (also caused by traffic,
- wind, appliances, water) and has not been shown to cause health impacts.
Before I became interested in wind farms, I had no idea what Shadow Flicker is, but Innenergy has taken measures to make sure it is addressed.
- Limited to 30 hours per year by Freeborn County Ordinance
- Means 99.7% of the year no flicker
- Modeled precisely and conservatively.
- Detailed calendars available
I had no idea there were concerns about possible interference with communications such as tv, radio, and satellite tv. Inenergy had considered these too and had answers to these questions as well.
No impacts to
- Microwave beam paths
- Am and FM radio stations
- Fixed land mobile (emergency response, etc.)
- Cable or satellite television
- Cellular telephones
- The potential exists for temporary impacts to tv via antenna
- Procedure to correct these are defined in the SPA – what does this lingo mean? If the wind turbines create an issue with your ability to watch tv, Inenergy will do what it needs to, to make it right.
Will the wildlife in our area be taken into consideration? I should have known; the company has been researching for years to make sure wildlife has been taken into account.
- Turbines have been carefully sited
- Detailed field studies began in Spring 2015 per USFWS WEG
- Expanded project area studies started October 2016
- Native prairie evaluations, wetland evaluations, raptor nest surveys, eagle nest monitoring and avian use surveys.
How do wind turbines affect Property Values?
- Can increase value of ag land by providing a new revenue source
- Massive setbacks and other protections respect neighboring residential parcels
- No evidence of property value impacts locally
- Freeborn County Assessor does not take proximity to wind turbines into an account.
- National Studies have also found no evidence of property value impacts
- Data collected from more than 50,000 home sales among 27 counties in 9 states
- Homes within 10 miles of 67 different wind farms
- 1,198 sales within 1 mile of a turbine
In my opinion wind turbines are a lot like a lot of things in life. You can see it negatively, or you can see the positive effect it will have on everyone. We can begin to set a positive foot in the right direction for other future businesses to come knocking on Freeborn County’s door. Welcome Freeborn Wind Farm, I am glad to have you.
If you have further questions Dan Litchfield, Senior Manager, Project Develop is available at 773-318-1289 or by email at [email protected] You can also get a hold of Mariah Lynne at Good Steward Consulting by phone 507-383-7200 or by email [email protected] Both are more than willing to take your call and take each comment, question, and concern seriously.
There will also be a public hearing in Albert Lea Feb. 20th from 2:30-9pm at the National Guard Armory. Please show your support by attending the hearing and sharing why you support Freeborn Wind Farm.