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9/23/08 Life With Industrial Wind Turbines in Wisconsin Part 11: What happens when a farmer says no to a wind developer-

This is part two of an interview with father and son dairy farmers in Fond du Lac county. (scroll to previous posting to see part one of this interview) They talk about why they decided not to host turbines, property values, and the impact the wind development has had on their community. For those whose internet connection isn't fast enough to watch the video, a transcript is provided below. At the end of the transcript is a map of the wind farm this family is now forced to live within.

Ralph and Kevin Mittelstadt
Dairy Farmers
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin
April 2008

Q: You  were offered to sign a contract but you chose not to. How did that impact you and the community. Did it make any of your neighbors unhappy with you because of that?

Ralph: Many of the neighbors were unhappy. They sent us threatening letters.

Q: Threatening letters?

Ralph: Saying we owe them so much money because we're keeping them from getting money from these wind towers. Because we had an airstrip here, and originally, the Dodge County Board said that they should stay away 9,200-some feet, what the FAA said they should from an airstrip. Because we've been here 36 years with an airstrip. But evidently it didn't mean much because they just appointed other people to override them.

Q: Now these letters that were written to you by your neighbors, were they hand-written letters from the people themselves? Or were these letters coming from the company?

 Ralph: They were typed-up from the company. The PR person. Form letters from a PR firm. [names firm] from Chicago, Illinois.

Q: Were they connected to the developer?

Kevin: Yeah. The developer, he's on the Carbon Climate Exchange. I don't know if you know about that. They're the ones trading carbon credits? He's onto that. And this PR firm worked for Al Gore. And too, himself, so there's kind of a tie.

Q: Do you know anything about property values, have you heard anything in the local community, are people concerned about property values being not maintained-- a drop in property values?

Ralph: I think the property values where the turbines are is going to drop. Because you have  less work-land, number one, and any houses that were built up around them-- people don't want them in their back yard no more now, and so if they want to sell their houses, they ain't going to get as much money for it.

Q: Can you talk about some of the effects it's had on the community, you mentioned that neighbors  are pitted against neighbors. Can you expand on that and tell us a little bit more about some of the effects on the local community because of the development?

Kevin: I'd say there's more hostility.

Q: More hostility?

Kevin: Yeah. In general, yeah. Money changes people.

Ralph: Our neighbor across the road had their house for sale and they had three different buyers on it. And every one that found out a wind turbine was going up in the back yard they  backed right out of the deal.

Q: Has the house sold yet?

Ralph: No. They took it off the market now. They couldn't get it sold.

Q: Can't get it sold because of the development.
You mentioned the shadow flicker earlier, about  the sun and the blades, can you talk about that a little bit, as far as what's that like here?

Kevin: If it lines up it will go over your whole yard, you know. It will come off your buildings.

Q: Does that happen every day? At a certain time?

Ralph: Just if it's clear out and the wind turbine is turned right.

Kevin: I guess if I was hosting a wind turbine I wouldn't put it east or west of my house.

Q: I had someone else mention that, because of the sun rising and the sun setting.

Kevin. Right.

Q: What was the interaction with the local officials like at the township board, or commissions who were appointed to approve this. Did you have a good feeling about working with them? Or did you not? Could you comment on that?

Ralph: They seemed to be sold out to the wind energy company already. Everything was just for the wind energy-- they wined and dined a lot of them ahead of time. And they're very positive about it. They don't want to listen to people. They think a lot of the complaints and stuff have no merit.

Q: You say you flew up to Minnesota to look at the project up there. Can you comment on that, as far as what your thoughts were when you took that visit up there.

Kevin: There's quite a few of them. And people up there seemed to be positive toward them, I guess.

Q: Is there much development, are they located around homes or around farms, or buildings, do you know?

Kevin: There's not-- it's not as populated as here. It's pretty sparse. More open.

Q: Was it a similar developer that was up there?

Kevin: There's quite a few of them. It's all different. Some of it is actually owned by farmers. On their own. There's actually a wind turbine manufacturer that moved in the pipes, I believe. The built the propeller blades there. So it's actually benefiting the community there.

Q: So your decision not to participate [in hosting a turbine] was an individual decision. Do you think if they were to do it differently in this area with a different development you would still participate in it?

Ralph: Probably not.

Kevin: No.

Ralph: I think someday if you could have a small one to generate your own current to the house, maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing. If they could prove it's efficient enough. But I don't think they can prove it yet. That it's going to be efficient enough to generate enough for a home.

Kevin: We own 450 acres. We took most of the fence lines out ourselves, you know? By hand. Moving all the rocks. So, we didn't really want nobody putting a road through the middle of it.

Q: Do you have any thought in general about the efficiency of wind-power?

Ralph: I think they shoot a lot of figures at you showing they produce more electricity than they really do. And in this area here, Wisconsin, only got wind enough for--what-- 21% of the time?

Kevin: I think 24%. or 30. The always give the figure that it produces so much-- like 63,000 homes this is supposed to provide power for.

Q:  That's at 100%

Kevin: But they never tell you it takes a 25 mile per hour wind to make that. So the power curve is pretty sharp on a wind turbine. When the wind drops off it goes down dramatically. So, on average they're not going to produce very much power.

Ralph: It takes a little over 8 miles an hour just to start producing electricity. So the turbine can be turning out there, and not doing nothing. And up at Calumet, up here, what was that guys name up there?"

Kevin: Dean [Last name}

Ralph: He said that they brought that up at the meetings. They wanted them to shut the turbines down if they ain't producing electricity, and he said these people just jumped right off of their chairs. Because they want to keep these people that are seeing these turbines turning believing that they're making electricity all of the time.

Kevin: The average person sees them turning and they hear that figure that it's going to produce power for 66,000 homes-- and they're thinking, "Well, this is great."

Q: So you've attended a lot of meetings and have been quite involved with this process right from the start, then.

Kevin: I think we were the first people that they called. Because of the airstrip.

Q: You feel, you mean that the knowledge you've attained has put you in a position where you know what you need to know about it?

Kevin: Yeah.

Ralph: There's always more to learn, too. There's always more to learn about it.

Kevin: I mean, we're open minded. Like you said, we have the test tower, and we gave them a fair shake,

Q: How do you feel about the development here, now that it's here. How's it make you feel to see this here?

Ralph: It's a mess. It's a mess now. I don't know if they are going to get it straightened out in time for these farmers here, they want to put their crops in in the spring.

Kevin: It changes the view, I guess. That's what people always tell me, because, you know, we live here, so I don't really get to see it from far away distance, but they say, "We can see it from Beaver Dam"-- or Fond du Lac, or Lake Winnebago.

Ralph: From Oshkosh they can see this down here, you know? They can see it from Oshkosh.

Q: The state-- or I guess it was the Public Service Commission, that would be the agency. But they don't give much credence to what people think about aesthetics-- how things look. Any comments on that?

Kevin: I guess they really don't care if a couple people don't like the way it looks.

Q: Is there more than a couple people that don't like the way it looks?

Ralph: Oh, I would say if it would come down to a referendum, vote from all the people, I think it would be kind of marginal if it would go through. But it didn't come down to that. And it should have, I think. I think the whole township should vote on it.
I think that would be a good thing. To get all the people to vote on it one way or another.
    It's just a couple of people that are on the town board. And you should bring that out and make them aware of all of the problems-- and the good things-- if there's good things about it, I mean, bring them all out. It should be the people that make the decision. Not just a couple of them.

Kevin: There was a couple of people that spoke up you know, and thats fine if they want to build them, but the town and the county should actually benefit from it, you know. Instead of losing all this money that's going away from the town and county. Because it does effect-- like you said-- all the people can see it and it affects you I guess.


Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 06:57PM by Registered CommenterThe BPRC Research Nerd | Comments Off

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