Policy: Mixed Land Use for Wind Turbines
Farming has become an increasingly volatile profession over the last decade as both weather and markers have been unreliable. Giving family farmers additional control over and security in their revenue streams while simultaneously creating good union construction jobs is the sort of win-win rural Minnesota could use. By helping rezone land for mixed use in order to create wind farms, and providing towns with tools to develop energy co-ops, we can accomplish exactly that scenario.
We’ve seen wind power grow greatly across the state in recent years. In 2000, it was only 1.4% of the total power generated in Minnesota. In 2019, that’s up to 19%. Meanwhile, farmers are getting upwards of $5,000 per turbine per year that’s put on their property, companies are paying millions in new tax revenue to local counties, and both construction and repair jobs are headed to our blue collar workers.
We already have the Hometown WindPower project in East Grand Forks, and just across the Red River there is the Pembina Border Station. Our part of the state is ripe for this sort of investment and if we ensure zoning doesn’t get in the way, then our towns and farmers can choose this for themselves.
One great success story in Minnesota is the city of Trimont. They formed a citywide co-op for the wind farm, 200 turbines were installed, and when it was time to extend the lease, every single one of the 67 landowners who originally signed on to the project agreed to re-sign. That’s particularly important because there definitely are people who don’t want wind turbines on their land, but when you have a 100% extension rate, something is going right.
It should be noted that there have now been 19 scientific literature reviews on the subject and no adverse health effects, including “Wind-turbine syndrome,” have been proven to exist. Additionally, according to federal studies, “Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats.”
Wind turbines are safe, effective, helpful to our farmers, and helpful to our unions. We need to make certain that if towns and landowners in Minnesota want them, the state helps that happen.