As wind turbines loom, Iowa County residents split on their benefits, risks

IOWA COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Construction will soon begin on new wind turbines in Iowa County- but some people say they do not want them, while others are remaining optimistic.

A group in Iowa County called "Iowa County Wind Education" has gathered more than 1,000 members on Facebook. The group grew in size after the Iowa County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with Diamond Trail Wind Energy, in which 78 wind turbines will be constructed across Iowa County.

The vote passed 3-1 in May, with Chairperson Ray Garringer abstaining his vote.

Some of those residents felt shut out and uninformed about the decision- and construction is slated for the end of 2019 and into 2020.

Now that group is hoping to draft an ordinance with the assistance of the county's board of supervisors, hoping that it could potentially ban or restrict more turbines from coming into the county. However, Iowa County does not have any zoning ordinances that would restrict building turbines. If one is created or adopted, the Iowa County Board of Supervisors voted those rules will not apply to the Diamond Trail Wind Project already in place.

But some people are still optimistic about the potential plans, and argue that wind energy could prove beneficial for the long-term.

"We're going to have five windmills within a mile of us on neighbors' properties," said Sherrie Schafbuch, one of more than 300 Iowa County residents that signed agreements on the most recent wind project.

For Schafbuch, seeing the neighboring windmills from Poweshiek County is a sign of things to come.

"We educated ourselves well and we did it by finding unbiased information," Schafbuch said. "We found it online, we found it from people we knew."

For other residents like Abby Maas, some were unaware the project was even in motion- Maas told TV9 in May she originally found out on Facebook. Since then, she has gotten involved with the group in Iowa County to voice their concerns to the county board of supervisors.

"We've had a petition with over 700 signatures and took it to them and wanted at least a half-mile setback for non-participating property lines," Maas said.

However, Schafbuch said she has concerns over the message the group is sending- arguing that the group is only focusing on the negatives around wind energy.

"Residents of Iowa County need to be informed- and by informed, that's more than just attending a meeting that's being held by a group that's admittedly anti-wind," Schafbuch said. "You're not going to hear both sides."

The group cites environmental and financial concerns- arguing the impact those turbines make now, are not worth it down the road. Maas, a farmer, cited an article that relates to the importance of bats and the potential risks to the species with wind turbines. She also said given the lifespan of a wind turbine, there is no efficient way to recycle the 78 turbines when they need to come down or be replaced.

"Two hundred twenty five, over 100-foot blades, that are going to have to go to a landfill just to produce 30-percent of our electricity for 25 years," Maas said. "To me, that doesn't make any sense."

Schafbuch argues it is worth it long-term- but for a different reason.

"There is a cost to the manufacturer and the hauling, but it's about more than that," Schafbuch said. "It's about stopping our reliance on burning fossil fuels."