Lincoln County organizations still battling for and against wind energy

Published: Jun. 19, 2017 at 6:22 PM CDT
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Voters in Lincoln County will decide the future of a proposed wind farm in the area next month, after recent noise and location requirements were passed by county commissioners last month.

A proposal from Dakota Power Community Wind has been in the works for several years, but the plan is in serious jeopardy after county commissioners passed a number of new noise and location requirements last month.

Now, DPCW has partnered with another organization -- Farmers & Friends for Wind -- which encompasses a number of farming organizations that don't often see the same sides of issues -- are taking their case to the ballot box. But another group -- WE CARE South Dakota, is starting an opposition movement. WE CARE said they aren't entirely opposed to wind energy, they just don't think it's right for Lincoln County.

But DPCW and Farmers & Friends for Wind say they couldn't be more wrong -- because the pros for a wind farm -- far outweigh the cons.

"The very southern part of Lincoln County has a higher elevation and because of that we have greater wind speeds," said Brian Minish, a board member of DPCW. "It's a great place for a wind farm."

WE CARE South Dakota disagrees.

"The old ordinance that was replaced this spring had them [the turbines] defined as three times the height of the tower which is probably around a thousand feet," said WE CARE chairperson Winnie Petersen. "But could be as little as 750 feet from a home."

WE CARE says most residents won't have a say where the turbines go, and reference studies that found turbines can force property values down and cause health issues for people who live nearby.

"It's been linked to attention deficit in children, to problems with sleep," Petersen said.

But supporters of a wind farm say, their opposition is just trying to scare people away.

"MIT has done research on health, there's been no negative effects on health from wind turbines," Minish explained. "Cal Berkeley did research on property values. Actually the research shows property values go up because obviously they're going to earn move revenues by having a wind turbine on the land, so that's not factual as well."

WE CARE said they're really concerned about where the turbines will be allowed to go.

"The half-mile is about 5 and a half city blocks from a 500-foot industrial structure," Petersen explained, referencing the old ordinance.

And DPCW and Farmers & Friends for Wind say they think that's the opposition's main issue.

"I think it's mostly that they just don't want to look at a wind turbine," Minish said.

Both sides say they encourage voters to read accredited studies about wind turbines and reach out to their organizations with any additional questions.

A "no" vote on July 18 will roll back the recently-adopted restrictions to the previous ordinance, while a "yes" voter will keep them in place.