Turbines rise, residents worry about adverse effects
January 23, 2009
ROSE CREEK — To Carol Lantow, it feels like her home is slowly becoming enveloped by wind farms.
On a clear day, she can see the whirling blades of turbines on two distant wind farms from her home in rural Rose Creek.
And even closer to home, a neighboring farmer is planning to erect a single wind turbine on his property about a quarter mile from the home Lantow shares with her husband, Jim.
"I'm not against green energy or windmills," Lantow said. "I just believe these projects need to be carefully planned with lots of citizen input."
As wind turbines become more pervasive in southeastern Minnesota with the growing number of wind farms in Mower, Fillmore and Dodge counties, complaints are cropping up about the noise and shadow flicker they cause.
However, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has only received three such complaints so far.
"Minnesota wind projects have been full of comments from people who are concerned about these effects, but typically they are not issues once the project is in place," said Tricia DeBleeckere, an energy facility planner for the Public Utilities Commission.
Brian Huggenvik and his wife built their home in rural Harmony just a few years ago after being away from Fillmore County for about 20 years.
But now a 300-acre field behind Huggenvik's house could have as many as six turbines, as his property borders the proposed 200-megawatt EcoEnergy wind farm west of Harmony.
"It's not going to be country anymore," he said. "It's going to be an industrial wind farm that we'll be living under. With those flashing red lights, I'm afraid it will look like a spaceship has landed."
Lantow is fighting the wind turbine planned near her house. Late last year, she organized a petition with 17 signatures from surrounding neighbors opposed to the wind turbine. However, the Mower County Board ultimately decided to approve a conditional-use permit allowing the turbine to go up as long as it's 750 feet from surrounding homes.
Lantow doesn't think that not far enough away.
The turbine's platform has already been built and the tower will likely be put up this spring.
While some people who live near wind turbines are bothered by the noise and flickering shadows wind turbines can cause, Lantow's main concern is the effect the turbine might have on waterfowl that flock to a pond at the back of her property.
"We've kept the pond as a small wildlife preserve and have been trying to keep a natural habitat," Lantow said. "We've read about instances where wildlife have been killed by those rotors."
She's also concerned that the tower's blinking red lights will further contaminate the countryside.
Lantow believes the neighbors should put the wind turbine closer to their own home.
Turbine complaints focus on noise
The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
The most common complaint from neighbors or prospective neighbors of wind turbines seems to be the noise.
"My biggest concern is the noise," said Goodhue resident Rick Conrad said. "I don't mind looking at them, but I worry that if I'm out in my yard I will be hearing these things."
Conrad owns 80 acres, works in town and rents his farm land to a neighboring farmer.
"I'm not against wind energy at all," Conrad said. "I'm for alternative energies, but it doesn't need to be done with industrial turbines. I think we should be looking at solar facilities."
When Conrad was offered a wind lease, he chose not to sign because he didn't want to "give up rights" to his property.
Several residents in Goodhue County formed a group called Goodhue Wind Truth in reaction to proposed wind farms near Goodhue.
Conrad said developers have told people the wind turbines will sound similar to refrigerator, but Conrad describes the sound as a "modulated power hum."
"When you live out in the country, you live there because you want to get away from noise. You expect it to be quiet," Conrad said.
All three complaints filed to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission about wind turbines statewide concerned noise, said Tricia DeBleeckere, an energy facility planner for the Public Utilities Commission.
In two of the cases, mechanical gears needed to be repaired, DeBleeckere said.
The third complaint also involved noise, but the state found that the turbine was compliant with the state standards, she said.
State noise requirements vary depending on the time of day and the location of the turbine, but DeBleeckere said most developments are held to a 50-decibel standard at a maximum, DeBleeckere said.
Rural Harmony resident Brian Huggenvik believes the PUC should consider putting limits on low frequency sound emitted by wind turbines.
Huggenvik's property borders the proposed 200-megawatt EcoEnergy wind farm west of Harmony.
A study called "Public Health Impacts of Wind Turbines" prepared by the Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Division has concluded that low-frequency noise from turbines does affect some people.
According to the study, common complaints have been annoyance, sleeplessness and headaches.
The study said most available evidence suggests that reported health effects are related to audible low frequency noise and complaints appear to rise with increasing outside noise levels above 35 decibels.
The study found that low frequency noise from a wind turbine generally is not easily perceived beyond one half mile and that shadow flicker isn't an issue at most distances over three-fourths of a mile for most turbines.
Huggenvik has attended several public hearings in both the Harmony area and the Twin Cities regarding the project.
"Our claim is that the setbacks just aren't enough," Huggenvik said. "We think a 2,000-foot setback, similar to what has been adopted in Wisconsin, would mitigate almost all the problems with flicker and sound."
He's also concerned that the wind farm could be unstable because it will be constructed in an area littered with sink holes.
He plans to ask for an environmental review of the project during an upcoming hearing.
"We're not out to stop the project," Huggenvik said. "We just want to make sure it's safe."