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Residents’ Revolt Against MN Wind Farm Makes National News

The media finally appears to be picking up on the growing backlash against the proliferation of gigantic wind turbines over huge swaths of farmland. A national AP story just out focuses on the fierce opposition to a proposed wind farm in Freeborn County in southern Minnesota.

But when a developer sought to put up dozens more of the 400-foot towers in southern Minnesota, hundreds of people in the heart of wind country didn’t celebrate. They fought back, going door-to-door to alert neighbors and circulating petitions to try to kill the project. They packed county board meetings, hired a lawyer and pleaded their case before state commissions.

“I’ve had more neighbors in my living room in the last six months than in all the years we’ve lived here,” said Dorenne Hansen, a leader in the effort whose family has farmed in the area for more than a century.

The criticism has worked so far, stalling the development. Although opposition to wind power is nothing new, the residents of Freeborn County are part of a newly invigorated rebellion against the tall turbines. These energized opponents have given fresh momentum to a host of anti-wind ideas and successfully halted projects across the country.

Click on cover for report

American Experiment has helped lead the battle to inform Minnesotans about the enormous costs and paltry results since the state imposed a renewable energy mandate a decade ago. Our report, Minnesota Energy Policy: The High Cost of Failure, revealed at least $15 billion in Minnesota has been squandered on wind turbines and transmission lines without achieving environmentalists’ goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, Minnesotans spent more than the national average on their power bills for the first time in 2017, wiping out what used to be an 18 to 20 percent price advantage before the imposition of green energy mandates.

Much of the opposition is centered in the Midwest, which has the nation’s greatest concentration of turbines. Opponents have banded together to block wind projects in at least half a dozen states, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana and Michigan. Disputes are still being waged in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Maryland. Intense opposition also exists in parts of the Northeast, including Maine, New York and Vermont.

For many critics, their opposition starts with a simple disdain for the metal towers that support blades half the length of a football field. They want the views from their kitchen window or deck to be of farmland or hills, not giant wind-harnessing machinery.

Others cite grievances that have long circulated on the internet from people living near the towers. They claim the turbines make them dizzy, irritable and unable to sleep. The whooshing noise and vibration from the blades, they say, force them to close windows and blinds and use white noise to mask the mechanical sounds.

Still other homeowners fear for their property values, as fewer people will want to buy a home overlooking a wind farm.

American Experiment has also launched a statewide radio campaign to highlight the results of our report. Our ad notes that Minnesotans’ cash is “gone with the wind” and that “frankly, my dear, they (the environmental and corporate special interests behind the costly mandate) don’t give a damn.”  Here is the radio ad:

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Invenergy has embarked on a radio campaign to counteract the Center’s report, according to a local observer who contacted us. In the AP story, the industry also acknowledges the message is breaking through.

Dan Litchfield, a senior manager at Invenergy, one of the world’s largest wind-energy developers, blames much of the opposition on misinformation but acknowledges that some resistance persists even when neighbors are provided with full details.

But will state regulators do more than pay lip service to the hundreds of Freeborn County residents opposed to Invenergy and act in the public interest?

Heidi Gaston, an obstetrics doctor and one of Dorenne Hansen’s children, built a wrap-around porch specifically to enjoy the view and the silence of southern Minnesota. She and her husband can’t imagine staying in their home if seven turbines are erected within a mile.

Neighbors will take their objections to the state Public Utilities Commission this month. They expect a decision by spring.

“We moved here hoping for a peaceful country setting,” Gaston said. “And that’s certainly not what we’d have.”

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