National efforts to ban wind energy in Iowa are instead banning Iowa landowner rights
Iowa has been a national leader in renewable energy for decades thanks to early vision by leaders like Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley. By early diversification of our state’s energy portfolio, we have kept energy rates well below the national average and been able to attract and retain companies and workers in Iowa.
This success is set to grow with the proposed Worthwhile Wind Project, which could provide more than $200,000 of annual revenue to the Lake Mills Community School District once completed.
However, Iowa’s renewable energy leadership has made our state a target for national efforts to kill wind and solar development. Under the guise of local messengers, we have seen the same anti-wind talking points pop-up across the country and the same misinformation spreading online.
These anti-renewable energy organizations have popped up in Worth and Winnebago Counties, Adams County (my home county), Madison County, Taylor County, Page County, and many more. The groups are operating from the same playbook featuring frequent meetings, organized structure, and using shared materials from national web sources that originate thousands of miles from the state of Iowa.
As chair of the Iowa Conservative Energy Forum (ICEF) and a farmer myself, I hope to be a middle ground and commonsense voice to make sure we are looking out for Iowa farmers and landowners before national interest groups. I caution all my colleagues and friends in rural Iowa to understand these efforts to ban renewable energy development by organizations claiming to protect home rule, are in fact banning the rights closest to your home—your land rights.
Our goal at ICEF is to be the local ally of landowners who look to find common ground and to provide facts and figures free of online hysteria. We need to fight back against organizations and their local messengers that promote a national agenda that claims to protect property rights and fight against eminent domain. In reality, these groups are creating eminent domain policies of their own by not enabling landowners to make their own decisions about development on their own land.
We hope Worth and Winnebago counties can keep landowners in the driver’s seat and preserve their freedom to choose. Wind energy has become an important cash crop for farmers, providing a consistent revenue stream that helps hedge against fluctuating commodity prices. More than $70 million paid annually to Iowa farms has been more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important to remember that the vocal minority does not represent the majority opinion in rural Iowa. Even though I opted against wind turbines on my land (which was my choice, not a government ban), my neighbors have wind turbines and I view them as a source of pride and innovation for our community.
Winnebago and Worth Counties have already realized economic benefits from wind energy and can build upon this success if the county observes common sense policies for all citizens.
I encourage county leaders to analyze all sides of the conversation, and to research the anti-wind propaganda and its sources. By continuing to harness the natural resources of our Iowa farmland, including wind, we can ensure Iowans will benefit for generations to come.
Ray Gaesser is the chair of the Iowa Conservative Energy Forum and the former president of the American Soybean Association and the Iowa Soybean Association.