Wind turbines in a diverse agricultural society
The advent of wind turbines coming to my farming community has opened my eyes to a whole new set of societal issues. There is a clear delineation between those who embrace the idea of wind turbines and those who do not want anything to do with them.
Over the years, I have watched farm families carry on tried and proven farming traditions, one generation after the other. I have seen parents encourage their children, before and after higher education, to stay on, or return to the farm just as they were encouraged by their parents. This tradition may be preventing many of these generational farmers from embracing something new, like wind turbines, from fitting in with their traditional view of agriculture.
I have listened to a whole host of reasons why different people do not want wind turbines. Not only do some people not want turbines, they do not want their neighbors to have them. Many have said they do not want their traditional agricultural vista disturbed. This is ironic, in that over the years farmers have graduated from 1,000 bushel government grain bins, to building 50,000 to 100,000 bushel bins. These man made structures dominate the skyline alongside grain legs and silos. Farmers deem these structures visually acceptable because they help them make money. All of these structures alter the prairie vista. Most Iowans and farmers have accepted them as a way of life. Others have said they just donít want their traditional way of life altered in any way. Most reasons for not wanting turbines are not scientifically based. Most objections seem to hinge on personal feelings. Quoting from a really good book, many just donít want their cheese moved.
There have been many different responses from those opposed to turbines. Some have tried to get people to sign petitions against turbines. Some have written badly worded editorials for the newspaper, full of misinformation and childish name calling. Some have been scare-mongers, spreading incorrect and unsubstantiated rumors about wind turbines. Some have used years of friendship to sway neighbors into giving up turbines that would guarantee yearly income for at least 20 years down the road. Some have even sacrificed over 50 years of friendship because of differing opinions. Some have said people who want turbines are greedy! Any good businessman tries to maximize the income from their land asset, in order to secure their familiesí future and their retirement. Some farmers build livestock facilities on their land, to enhance their income, others grow specialty corn for the ethanol industry or the seed industry. None of these enterprising farmers is greedy, they are just good businessmen, who adapt and diversify. Now we have the opportunity to further maximize our land asset by adding environmentally friendly wind turbines. Like many other alternative land enterprises, this is one more thing helping to secure a farmers income. This is not greed!
I feel these anti wind turbine people are shortsighted in their thinking. This is especially true when you look at all the good that can come from this clean, renewable energy. Every turbine results in using less fossil fuel and cuts down on foreign fuel imports. The wind turbine energy program has resulted in thousands of jobs and excellent career opportunities for young people earning two-year tech degrees. Many of our youth leave the state of Iowa seeking challenging career opportunities. Rural Iowa areas have lost population every decade since the 1920s. As we have all seen, small towns are struggling to stay alive. Wind energy offers the technological and economic incentives for some of our bright, ambitious young people to stay in our state. It is exciting to realize a single 2-megawatt turbine can power 500 homes without polluting the environment. Since the onset of wind turbines in Iowa, many nitrous oxide polluting coal fired power plants have shut down across Iowa. Now producing 36.6 percent of its energy from wind turbines, Iowa is listed as one of the top 10 clean energy states in the USA. Turbines provide many farmers with a secure and steady source of extra income. This is important in a fluctuating farm economy.
Change and new technology are hard things for a lot of people to understand and accept. Farmers have walked away from the horse and plow, and embraced four-wheel drive tractors, GPS auto-drive systems, drones to scout fields, the ever present cellphone, ethanol burning cars and a host of other conveniences of modern technology. They have been inured to cellphone towers, radio/TV towers and the extremely large steel power polls stretching across the country. As we progress into the future, wind turbines, industrial solar panels and other clean energy producing devices will become commonplace fixtures on the horizon. We can all adapt and life will go on.
It is time for all Iowans to take advantage of all the new technologies being offered in the 21st century. Hopefully everyone will come to realize what a blessing it is to live in the Saudi Arabia of wind!
ó Dick Kirksey, Everly