The Dickinson County, Iowa Board of Adjustment rejected Invenergy’s permit request to install new wind turbines in the Iowa Great Lakes region near East Okoboji Lake.
SPIRIT LAKE, IA — Invenergy’s proposal to install 79 wind turbines near East Okoboji Lake was shot down by the Dickinson County Board of Adjustment last week, striking a major blow to Invenergy’s ambitions to force their will on Iowa small towns.
In a hearing that was supposed to take one night, but ended up taking three, the BOA voted to deny the permit. Kris Van Kleet, a resident of Dickinson County who helped found the group Dickinson County Concerned Citizens, credits grassroots efforts for halting the project.
“God is good, that’s all I can say,” Van Kleet said.
As is typical with wind farm projects targeting small towns, the proposed project divided the community, turning former neighbors and friends against each other. The focus now will be on healing the fractured community.
“I pray that our neighborhood will heal,” she said. “I pray that our community would heal, that people would forgive and remember that we’re still neighbors and we’re still people.”
Dozens of people showed up at the three day hearing to protest the project, raising concerns such as impacts on health, wildlife, property values, and tourism. Van Kleet’s son also owns a crop dusting business and fears that wind turbines in the area would destroy his business.
Two other wind farms have also been proposed for the Iowa Great Lakes Region, but Van Kleet says she will fight against those too. It’s also worth noting that Dickinson County already has one existing wind farm: The Lost Lakes Wind Farm which has 61 wind turbines located near the town of Milford, only six miles away from Okoboji. Had Invenergy’s project been approved, it would have brought the total number of wind turbines in Dickinson County to 140. Invenergy has 30 days to appeal the decision in court.
My take? There are several lessons Buchanan County should learn from Dickinson County here. The first is that Dickinson County already has experience with industrial wind energy thanks to the existing 61 wind turbines already operating in their county. Last week’s vote by the BOA makes it clear they do NOT want any more of them. Second, this proves what I and others have been saying all along. Opening the door to industrial wind turbines is like lowering the drawbridge on your castle to let just a few enemy soldiers in because they promise they will play nice. What really happens is that once the drawbridge is lowered, the rest of the soldiers behind them flood in as well, and now it is very difficult, if not impossible, to close the drawbridge again. If Buchanan County approves the Jubilee Wind Project and its proposed 70 wind turbines, how long will it be before NextEra or some other wind developer shows up wanting to install another 70 just six miles away? How long will it be before we have 140 wind turbines concentrated in Southern Buchanan County? How long before they start going after Northern Buchanan County and now we have 210 wind turbines? If this sounds alarmist? Well, I’d point out that MidAmerican Energy’s Highland Wind Energy Center in O’Brien County, Iowa has 218 turbines. But MidAmerican also owns a second wind farm in O’Brien with 104 turbines, making for a total of 322 wind turbines. In just one county! Do we really we want to open ourselves up to this?
Dickinson County said “no more” after letting the wind energy companies get a foot in the door. We should look to Dickinson for guidance, and we should see both Dickinson and O’Brien as warnings of what happens if we lower our drawbridge to let just a few in.