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Iowa State University Extension

Extension helps Iowans get the facts about wind energy

wind turbine

Chicago may be the Windy City, but Iowa is a windy state and the country’s third largest producer of wind energy, ranking behind only Texas and California. Iowans want facts about wind as a source of energy and about wind turbines as an investment. That’s why ISU Extension has been sponsoring regional conferences and seminars to get the issues in front of landowners, livestock producers, agribusiness professionals, utility company employees, media representatives, elected officials and others with an interest in this renewable resource.

And Iowans are showing up. For instance, more than 170 landowners came to Hamburg in October to get information to help them make good investment decisions, better understand applications of wind energy in their personal operations and understand local opportunities in the wind energy industry.

“Industrial scale wind farms are relatively new to southwest Iowa,” said Doug Doty, ISU Extension education director for Fremont County. “We have a major wind energy developer looking at this area, and many landowners don’t feel they know enough about the subject to ask good questions. We felt Extension could play a major role in providing unbiased information.”

Wind energy holds great promise, said Roger McEowen, Leonard Dolezal Professor in Agricultural Law at Iowa State University. However, he has been cautioning Iowans about legal issues and signing contracts too quickly.

“The most common shortcomings we see are that these agreements may extend too long into the future, offer inadequate compensation to landowners, bind farmers unilaterally to contract terms and create unequal bargaining power,” McEowen said. He added that landowners should have any proposed agreement evaluated by legal counsel and try to negotiate any unfavorable terms they find. 

Fremont County Supervisor John Whipple said the big turnout in Hamburg showed residents’ uneasiness both with contract terms being offered and the idea of wind turbines in general. “The contracts are long and detailed,” Whipple said. “People are concerned about all the fine print. And, they wonder how it may affect relationships with their neighbors—whether they sign or whether they don’t.”

For more detailed information regarding wind energy generation and accompanying legal issues, visit the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.

This article appeared in November 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter