By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
Supporters of wind farm development in Tipton County say they are leasing farm ground for the placement of wind turbines to preserve the farms that have been in their families for generations.
After months of hearing the arguments from the opponents of wind farm developments in Tipton County, the supporters of the project have decided to take a more active role.
Five Tipton County families who have signed leases with juwi Wind for the proposed Prairie Breeze wind farm and for a second planned development by E.ON Climate & Renewables for the area west of U.S. 31, are becoming more vocal.
“We stayed low key,” property owner Jeff Harlow said last week. “As things escalated, we decided to express our support.”
Harlow said he first heard of the potential wind farm development about seven years ago when discussions started in Clinton County.
“I’ve driven by the turbines for years,” he said of developments in Benton and White counties. “I knew what a wind farm looked like.”
John Cardwell said he started researching wind farms in 2005 and wanted to have a turbine on his property to maintain the family farm in Prairie Township.
“We have a huge investment in our farm,” Cardwell said. “We have no interest in selling off pieces of the farm to be able to keep a small portion of it. This is not a trivial issue for us.”
Cardwell said farmers have been leasing land for turbines at $3,000 each since the farm foreclosure crisis hit in the 1980s.
“From a practical sense, [the question is] how can you increase farm income,” he said. “Wind farms are a way to do that and preserve the family farm.”
Mike Orr, who has leased land to E.ON, said he wants to save the family farm for the next generation.
“I wanted to look at different ways to increase our income,” he said. “Maybe this is a way that I can help my grandchildren down the road. I don’t think it will hurt anyone.”
Orr said the concerns about health and the impact on property values are being driven by fear among the opponents — who are not interested in scientific studies that indicate there is no impact.
Paul Douglas said prior to signing any lease agreements, he went to Benton County to observe the wind farms and talk to people.
“There were no complaints,” he said. “This is a great opportunity and won’t hurt anyone.”
The leaseholders all agree the wind turbines will provide a source of clean energy.
Harlow said Tipton County has to make some major decisions about its future.
“This is a hinge point for me,” he said. “Tipton County is limited in our resources and development, we don’t have the resources for development. This is direct revenue that will benefit the community.
“I want this to stay a family farm,” Harlow said. “This is a small footprint that maintains the nature of what I grew up enjoying.”
Cardwell said people living in Prairie Township want to maintain the rural setting and would not want to see the township become a victim of urban sprawl in the future.
Orr said there were some people in Tipton County who didn’t take an interest in wind farm development when the wind ordinance was adopted and agreements were signed with E.ON for the first phase of the Wildcat Wind Farm east of Windfall.
“We’ve been attending meetings for an extended period of time. We choose to stay on the high road,” Harlow said.
Patty Harlow said there was little opposition and little discussion on the Wildcat Wind Farm and she is surprised at how the opposition has escalated to the Prairie Breeze development.
She said it was Tipton County’s turn to provide a means to generate electrical power through wind energy.
“Better roads would be fabulous,” Harlow said of the income generated by the wind companies. “There are economic benefits for the county. Farmers have good and bad years, this will help even out the bad years.”
Some opponents have said farmers are leasing the property to the wind energy companies out of greed, an argument all the supporters described as unfair.
Cardwell said he would be willing to sit down with an opponent to discuss the finances of his family farm and how thin the profit margin is in terms of financing the land purchase.
“There is an element in Tipton County that is trying to intimidate the supporters of the wind farms,” he said.
Harlow said its hurtful to read in Letters to the Editor section that there is greed behind the farmers’ decision.
“Sure there is money involved,” he said, “but they don’t know the people involved when they make those statements. They don’t have to like the look, just take the high road and talk it through.”
Cardwell said he can deal with people contending the turbines are unsightly or who want to share the revenues, but he doesn’t like the use of phony medical charges.
Becky Harlow said she didn’t know what to think about wind turbines until the development started to be discussed in Tipton County. She was concerned about health problems for her children and grandchildren.
“I was concerned about the allegations,” she said. “Every time it has been proven there is no ill health effect, it’s in the people’s minds. It’s the annoyance factor.”
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