Iowa landowners are being presented with a proposal for signing or not signing a wind turbine leasement (a combination of a lease and an easement).
We see different levels of interest – from Royal, Iowa, in Clay County where so few people would sign that the wind companies had to move on, to Palo Alto County where the wind companies have signed 100 easements. We see that half of these easements were signed by absentee landowners and at least one-fourth of them were signed by one farm manager.
Are you curious to know why so many landowners will not sign easements? I have spoken to landowners living in industrial wind energy installations from Adair to Lake Park to Webster City to Primghar. I also have heard from folks in Kansas, Missouri, Vermont and Oklahoma. While you can find people who are pleased with their experience, I have heard statements such as:
• “We had to put in soundproofing windows – it helped some.”
• “If we knew then what we know now, this (wind installation) never would have happened.”
• “We thought we were doing something good; now we just wish we had our farm back.”
There are many landowners who will not speak up publicly about the detriments they experience. Some are embarrassed because they lobbied for the wind companies to come. Some feel that they have signed a gag order, but I have been assured by lawyers that gag orders can be implied but are not legal. You are likely not supposed to speak of their designs, power output or the money you are being paid, but anything else cannot be “gagged.” Even with that information, though, it is hard to oppose a company that has control over – and under – so much of your property. It is a marriage from which you cannot get a divorce.
In wind contracts, the landowner will give up rights to file a claim against noise, vibration, turbulence and shadow flicker. These issues also can affect neighbors up to a mile away. In Ireland, seven families have won a nuisance suit against wind turbines, while in Michigan, Garden Township has just settled with turbine owners over turbine nuisance.
There are many good resources for learning about the downfalls of a wind energy easement. Iowa State University’s Center for Ag Law and Taxation has had great articles and even presentations such as the one given by Roger McEowen in Palo Alto and Clay counties in 2016. There are a series of videos that were made by the Illinois Farm Bureau as well. We have posted one of the videos on our Facebook page.
Iowa landowners such as myself have begun an organization to help educate other landowners. We are the Coalition for Rural Property Rights. Our website is coalitonforruralpropertyrights.com. We are completely grassroots and locally funded.