Who Owns The Wind?
(Editor’s Note:?Due to its length, this letter will be printed in two issues to meet the guidelines of the newspaper.)
To the Editor:
“So, how much dough will I make on this wind farm deal?” That question remains utmost in the minds of farmers interested in squeezing every drop of income from their operation. As a native Iowa farm boy, I understand “the bottom line is the bottom line.”
Drought, hail storms, and low commodity prices sometimes made pro?t margins tight on our 160 acres. But growing up on that farm also taught me priceless values that sustained our family farming operation through thick and thin. A strong work ethic, resilient attitude, spirit of fair play, watching out for your neighbor, caring for the wildlife that shares our land, and being a good steward of the soil shaped this rural legacy of values passed on to me from my ancestors to whom I am forever indebted. Wind farms threaten this legacy.
At ?rst glance, it seems like a good deal. A “windfall” of cash. “Free money” for the taking. A winning night at Vegas! After all, the wind is “free” isn’t it? Wellnot exactly. I recall wise farmers in our community who lived by the credo, “Free money never comes without strings attached.” And those “strings” are front and center of the wind farm debate, driving to the more important question, “Who owns the wind?”
Winning over the farmers
Wind farm corporations know this and work hard to incentivize farmers with promises of “free money,” avoiding the “Who owns the wind” question until it’s time to sign the contract. In the words of a fellow Iowan and respected writer, “They act as though eminent domain extends to the sky.” They control the script. They control the outcome. They control the strings. That’s why the “promise” of free money dominates the debate, overshadowing other urgent concerns. Who owns the soundscape we all listen to? Who owns the horizon we peer into day and night? Who owns the wildlife that depend on unobstructed ?yways and migratory routes of our beautiful Iowa skies?
Wind farm planners minimize these concerns, seeking to control the debate with promises of quick and easy money-another source of “low-hanging” tax revenue for the county and a way of reducing our dependence on foreign oil. What happens when this “free money” wins out over responsible stewardship of wind, land and wildlife?
Delivering on the promise
Unfortunately, wind power can’t deliver on its promises. Carbon footprints remain unchanged because wind power is too unreliable to permanently replace existing power generating sources. Denmark is the latest nation to scrap plans for building more wind farms. The Danish government says wind power has become too expensive. (Matzen, Erik and Boyle, Jon; “Danish Government Says Wind Power Became Too Expensive.” Reuters Daily Mail Wires 13 May 2016 at dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters /article-3589130/Danish-government-says-wind-power-too-expensive.html #ixzz4BHeWSohs)
Sprawling wind farms indelibly scar the rural landscape with giant towers that cast moving shadows during the day and a sea of blinking red lights at night. Residents living near wind farms report chronic health problems and we see mounting evidence wind farms kill our most treasured bird species (Cohen, Bonner R. “Minnesota Wind Farm Seeks Permit to Kill Bald Eagles.” Heartlander Magazine March 8, 2013 at news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/03/08/minnesota-wind-farm-seeks-permit-kill-bald-eagles)
This is an enormous price to pay for economic gain enjoyed by only a handful of farmers, while their neighbors are doomed to live in the shadow of these hulking, blinking skyscrapers literally “scraping” the beautiful Iowa horizon with turning blades, hundreds of feet long. That “free money” carries a huge price tag.
(signed) Wayne R. Knutson, Jr.
former Palo Alto County resident, from San Antonio, TX
Knutson, raised on the family farm in NW Iowa, is a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. His mother lives on the farm and is involved in managing the operation. His commentary was first published in Wallaces Farmer, August 2016.