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3/14/09: NO FLY ZONE: Why small airplanes, emergency medical helicopters and wind turbines don't mix

NO FLY ZONE:Fond du Lac County 2008

Better Plan received a letter from Reabe Spraying Service (Waupun) which explains the danger aerial applicators face when operating inside of wind farms. (click here to download original letter)

We thank Reabe Spraying Service for taking the time to write us this letter and for allowing us to share it here.

Dear Better Plan,

This letter is intended to inform you of Reabe Spraying Service’s perception of hazards to aerial applicators when operating in or near wind farm developments.

Large commercial wind farms create distraction, obstruction, and wake turbulence hazards that are life threatening to aerial applicators.

Modern wind turbines are very large structures, measuring app

roximately 400 feet high with a blade diameter of up to 270 feet. When you combine the physical size of these structures with blade rotation, the result is an object that captures your attention visually.

Aerial application operations take place at low levels near obstructions such as power lines, trees, and buildings. Aerial applicators must divide their attention between aircraft systems, treatment volumes, swath spacing, aircraft performance, weather, and obstruction avoidance.

When operating within a wind farm, the visual distraction created by the wind turbines further divides the pilot’s attention, exponentially increasing the likelihood of a life threatening error.

In a typical commercial wind farm there are approximately 2.5 turbines per square mile. In any given aerial application operation, a radius of one mile from the target site is utilized for maneuvering between swath runs, equating to an operations area of approximately three square miles.

This results in approximately seven turbines within the operations area.

Unlike other obstructions that aerial applicators must avoid, wind turbines are taller than the maximum height achieved during the turnaround. This means that a pilot never reaches a safe altitude allowing the pilot to check aircraft systems, treatment volumes, etc.

Simply said, the number and height of wind turbines within an aerial application area, exponentially increases the likelihood of a life threatening error.

Finally we come to the hazard of wake turbulence.This hazard is the most dangerous because it is invisible.

All airfoils in motion create wake turbulence.

The turbulence created is proportional to the weight and angle of attack of the airfoil; the heavier the weight and greater the angle of attack, the greater the wake turbulence.

A commercial wind turbine’s three blades can weigh as much as 40,000 pounds and operate at a very high angle of attack.

The result is turbulence severe enough to induce loss of control to an aerial application aircraft.

Again, this hazard is invisible and difficult to avoid while performing all of the other tasks necessary to perform an aerial application safely.

Due to the potential hazards mentioned above, Reabe Spraying Service has elected not to operate within the lateral boundaries of commercial wind farms.

Tom Reabe
President, Reabe Spraying Service
Waupun, WI 53963

NOTE: This letter is similar to the one from Flight for Life emergency medical helicopter transport, explaining why they will not land in the PSC approved wind farm near the town of Byron Fond du Lac county. (Click here to download letter)


A draft of a bill that would allow the Public Service Commission to repeat the wind turbine siting disasters in Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties has been introduced by Senator Jeff Plale, (D- South Milwaukee)

It should be noted that Senator Plale will have no wind turbines in his district, and no constituents who will be affected by this bill. The main impact will be on residents of rural Wisconsin.

Though the bill mentions no specifics about setbacks, noise limits, and other siting concerns, it is very clear about giving turbine siting approval to the PSC.

The PSC approved the siting of turbines 1000 feet from non-participating residents homes, and a noise limit of 50 decibels. Residents in the PSC approved wind farms of Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties are now having a hard time living with the disastrous results.


After you read it, please call your legislators (click here to find out who they are and how to contact them) and let them know if they want wind turbine siting reform, it should be based it on the Town of Union's Large Wind Ordinance, not a "recycled ordinance guidelines provided by an out-of-state utility"

(Click here to download the Union Ordinance)

(Click here to download the Wisconsin draft Model ordinance, which has since been pulled from the PSC website)

Click on the image below to watch an interview with Wisconsin dairy and cash crop farmers who live inside the Fond du Lac County wind farm where Reabe used to operate. (Full transcript provided at end of post)

Click on image below to watch the second part of the interview.


Life with Industrial Wind Turbines in Wisconsin Part 10

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

Q: You both farm-- a family farm. Diary Farm?

Kevin: Dairy and cash crop.

Q: And you also fly [airplanes]?

Both: Yes.

Q: What can you tell us about you experience with this development in this area from when it started until today?

Kevin: We gave it an open mind when they came, and we decided not to go with the developer when it came down to it.

Q: You hosted a met tower on your land?

Kevin: Yes

Ralph: For a little over two years.

Q: What was the experience like working with that company with the met tower, was it a good experience?

Ralph: There was no problem with the met tower and it didn't interfere with the land too much because we put it on one of the fence lines. Only the diagonal cables that come off-- we had to look out for when we worked around it.

Q: What were some of the issues you found with your decision to not host a turbine. Did they give you any problems when you decided that you didn't want to participate in the project?

Ralph: The company?

Q: Yes.

Ralph: Yeah, they were very negative to us. They actually come out and threatened me. "Either you do this or we're going to put them around you." And he told us if we don't sign the contract, "we're going to put them all around you and shut you right down"

Kevin:[Our first contact was when] We got a call from the company in Illinois in 2002 and one of the guys actually came out here and we didn't know what was going on, this was the first we ever heard of it. Basically they said they knew of our airstrip because it's on the map,
and that if we didn't go along with what they were going to do in the future, they would build around you.

Q: What was your primary reason for choosing not to participate with the tower? Was it because of your airstrip and how it would interfere with that?

Ralph: I think, if there was any reason, one was we'd lose too much farmland, it would create a problem with flying, because propellers create a vortex and your plane becomes unstable and it pulls you down, so now we can't spray our crops and we're damaging so much good farmland, so we figured it wouldn't be feasible to even go that way because we'd be losing too much in agriculture.

Q: Now you have wind turbine around you. We look out the window here and you've got one here and another one over there-- have they affected your flying? Have you flown with them up?

Kevin: You wouldn't want to fly down wind of them.
They place them far enough apart--[the turbines] themselves so they don't create turbulence between the two so you probably wouldn't want to fly in between there.

Q: So is your runway impacted by this type of development?

Kevin: Yeah. They actually hired a pilot that was one of the friends of one of the lawyers to testify to the PSC that he flew down by Paw Paw Illinois [where there are turbines] and it didn't affect him when he flew. He came and testified, he was at all the hearings saying that it wasn't a problem. Had these graphics. What it would look like to have one next to your runway. Claimed that the buildings are more of a problem for a runway than a wind turbine.

Q: Because of the air flow?

Kevin: Because of the close proximity of our runway to the hanger there. [He said] it would be more of an obstacle than a 400 foot wind turbine.

Q: You mentioned this in this area-- there's a lot of crop dusting?

Ralph: We did have a lot of cash cropping. Peas and sweet corn.

Q: Can you tell us how that's changed and how this type of development is going to affect that?

Ralph: Well, the peas and corn are kind of going out if we can't spray with the airplane. Because it doesn't make sense to drive in fields where the crops are big already and run it down.

Kevin: The problem is-- like this last summer we had problems with the sweet corn, a lot of it blew over sideways-- and you can't get down the rows. So we lose an option.

Q: Are the other farmers in the area that are close to the wind turbines are they concerned about not being able to spray their ground?

Ralph: A couple of them. One of them that hosted turbines right here to the south of us asked the company if they would shut the turbines down when the crop duster goes through.

Q: What'd they say?

Ralph: They said no.

Q: What's your experience been, either with the local officials or the company. Do you feel like they came in here and they wanted to work with people or did they just come in here and disregard what people thought?

Ralph: They seem to come in and--- they put up a front like they are really trying to do something for you. But in the long run, they're going to stick you in the back it seems. And they want to turn neighbor against neighbor. So that you can fight amongst [yourselves] and then they can come out and sit back and be the winners.

Q: Let me ask you a couple of questions about the quality of life. You mentioned you talked to your neighbors. Can you comment at all about the noise or the sound or what it sounds like or what other people have thought about that?

Kevin: When the winds over 12 miles an hour it sort of sounds like a jet engine. It's a deeper tone, you know, a deep roar.

Q: Does it keep you awake at night, does it wake you up? Does it affect people's sleep patterns?

Ralph: You can hear it when you're outside. But now it's winter and we don't have our windows open. So that's going to make a difference. When you're outside you can hear it constantly.

Q: What are the setbacks like around here from a home. This [turbine] here you mentioned is 1000 -1500 feet away?

Kevin: I think that's the minimum. [1000 feet]
Ralph: That's the minimum

Q: Do you feel that's adequate? That they should be set father away?

Ralph: I think they should be set farther away from the home. At least 1500 feet. At least.

Q: And do you know, are there any benefits to the local community? The landowners here are getting paid, and the community is getting paid-- is it creating any jobs? We're asking people questions on jobs because at the state level, they're saying these kinds of developments are going to create jobs. Can you comment on that at all? Are they going to create any jobs for the local economy.

Kevin: They said they were going to hire a couple of people to service them.

Q: Local people?

Kevin: I don't know. It would have to be specialized I guess. You would have to have some kind of training.

Ralph: They do hire some local contractors who come in and do the gravel work.

Q: So construction jobs.

Kevin: In the construction phase there's lots of jobs. There were at least two hundred people worked on it or better.

Ralph. But it's short term. Once it's constructed now, [it's over]. We would like to see it be more local. Because we have quarries right here. But they bypass them and they go to the big operators. The big construction outfits that they can get it cheaper with, you know?

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the access roads [to the turbines], how they're put in and what they look like and what they've done to the farm fields?

Kevin: They put 90 feet of culvert in, and put (breaker rock?) down and top over road gravel.

Q: And how much land area does that take up when they go in there? How many acres of land do these access drives take out of a typical farm field?

Ralph: I would say it's pretty close to five acres per turbine.

Kevin: It depends on how far back in the field they go.

Ralph: And how many roads they go through the field with.

Q: Is that disrupting the farming activity for the local farmers here having their fields divided up?

Kevin: I would say yeah. I mean the general trend in farming is bigger and bigger, wider equipment, so you're going have to be inefficient I guess when you're farming smaller fields. Especially with GPS, we just adopted that last year, so you're going have to go around stuff instead of in straight lines.

Q: As far as the contracts-- you were offered to sign a contract. What was your thought about the context of the contract?

Ralph: Very one-one sided. They're in control of everything.

Q: So if you own a piece of property as a landowner and the developer comes in and you sign an agreement with them, do you have any control over where they're going to put these access drives in or where they are going to place the turbines, or do you have any say-so?

Ralph: There it would depend on the company, I think. Because each company has different contracts. There are some companies that are a lot better at understanding, and work with the people. But the one we happen to have in this area I don't think is very nice at all.

Kevin: Just a couple of farmers that we know they said they weren't happy with where they put the stuff. They said there's no leeway in where they can put it. So they either had to go along with it or that was the end of it.

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. They 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 Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 05:05PM by Registered CommenterThe BPRC Research Nerd | Comments Off

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