Letter: Landowners share wind lease experiences
We would like to share our experiences as wind lease landowners of JW Wind, LLC a subsidiary of JUWI Wind, LLC. We were released of our contracts when project failed to progress. We are lifelong Nemaha county residents living in Berwick Township. We were approached by JW Wind in 2006 and told that we might as well sign a lease and receive an income because it was not a matter of ‘if’, but only a matter of ‘when’ the turbines would be placed in our area.
With wind farms being completely new to this area, we did not have the convenience of visiting with local experienced land owners to gain knowledge. The wealth of information about health issues, light flicker, infrasound, etc., was not as widely known or published at the time of our leases thirteen years ago. We naively entered contracts without knowledge of the potential health effects and also without fully understanding the liability issues that we potentially placed upon ourselves. We were approached at a time when commodity prices were low, similar to current agriculture economics in the area.
One of the main points we would like to share with our fellow Nemaha County citizens is the high level of deception with which the wind company operated. As the project started to move forward after signing our contracts, the lies started to surface. Some of the deception we experienced includes:
1. We were encouraged to sign up because our neighbors had already signed up, which in fact they had not.
2. We were lead to believe the turbines were definitely going to be in our immediate area (neighboring farms) and we might as well profit.
3. We were told the number of turbines which would be located on our property, but when actual site plans were revealed that number drastically decreased. Therefore, also drastically decreasing the income stated at the time of lease signing.
4. We were told that we would have a say in the location of the turbines and we were told they could be located in areas that currently have easy road or lane access without disturbing much farm land. When actual site plans were revealed and technicians started driving stakes per GPS coordinates for actual placements, it became evident that this was a blatant lie. The locations of the turbines was significantly changed. The new placements would completely destroy conservation practices. When requesting to move a turbine 50’ out of a terrace channel, the request was denied. The site plan also detailed numerous access roads planned to cut straight through terraces and across waterways. It became obvious, we had lost our property rights to continue quality farming and conservation practices and be good stewards of the land.
5. We were told the noise would be minimal, barely noticeable. However, after working & living in close proximity to the Nebraska project, we realized this was definitely not true. As we started to learn how cunningly this company operated, we also started to regret our decision of signing a lease and became very alarmed as to what else might arise.
Thankfully, we were released of our contracts when the project failed to proceed. The project ended up going north into Nebraska due to better state incentives at that time, the inability to have enough land leased in Kansas, and the passage of Resolution 2012-8 by Nemaha County.
The Nebraska project currently known as Flat Water wind farm is located about 5-6 miles north from our residences. The Flat Water project sold four times before starting operation, and is currently owned by a company based in Greece.
We realize the companies we were dealing with (JW Wind) is not the same company as NextEra or Invenergy. However, we encourage our fellow citizens and commissioners to be extremely cautious when dealing with these huge, out-of-state corporations and their splinter-off LLC companies. JW Wind seemed liked a great company to work with initially, and we were totally shocked by how dishonest they operated as time progressed.
Liability was not an area of high concern as we held our leases, but since that time, we have considered scenarios that make us grateful we are no longer bound by a lease. There are situations that could cause injury, death, property damage of neighbors, or actual turbine damage. If these mega-corporations successfully pinned this liability on us (the landowners), it would totally wipe out everything we had ever worked to achieve.
We would also like to share with you some of our experiences living in close proximity to the Nebraska wind farm.
As we watched them build the Flat Water project, we saw first-hand how they destroyed the county and township roads, grader ditches, and raped the conservation practices by cutting through terraces and destroying the soil profile for future crop production. The roads were in awful shape during the entire construction period of approximately 1 ½ – 2 years. They were at times quite hazardous to travel. The roads were not put back into acceptable condition until after project completion.
It was very difficult to source buying rock for personal use during the wind farm construction.
The closest quarry to us, the Strathman quarry, was depleted from the massive usage for the wind turbine project.
The noise produced by the turbines can be very loud and annoying. Thankfully, our residences are good distance from the Nebraska wind farm (5+ miles), so we do not live in the constant noise. We do, however, have other farms located about 2-3 miles south from the turbines. The noise we hear at those farms is often times a very gravelly, motor noise (gear rumble), not so much the swooshing of the blades. The noise sounds very low frequency and resembles railroad cars rolling down the track. However, trains only last for 1-2 minutes, this sound never goes away. The sound is definitely much louder than a household refrigerator which is a comparison the wind companies like to use. As you get closer to the wind farm, the swooshing becomes more pronounced. We know a family that lives approximately 1 ½ miles south of the turbine farm that has commented they only get about four hours of sleep per night because of the constant noise. The turbines are only located on one side of their farm, so we can only start to imagine what it might be like for folks in the Soldier Creek Project, where they may have turbines on all side of them. The petitions signed by many citizens ask for a 3000 foot residential setback, but really 4-5 miles would be most ideal.
The turbines are becoming rather unsightly. At first glance, they appear to be showing signs of rust, but after observation with binoculars, we believe it might be spewed grease that has splattered all over the turbine. This is yet another example of a potentially negative environmental impact on the agricultural aspect of the land.
One representative of NextEra during the public meetings denied negative impact to wildlife.
This also is a lie. We have seen first-hand decreased wildlife in the area. We have always enjoyed the Prairie Chicken flocks of 20-30 chickens coming from the North into our fields to feed in the morning and evening. Since the erection of the Flat Water turbines, the flocks are non-existent. Forever gone are the spring booming calls of the males.
Turbine props are the largest killer of winged bats, which are beneficial to control the harmful insect population. That is one fact the wind companies will not deny, but always fail to bring up.
Geese and ducks will not fly through to feed or migrate over wind turbines. Deer will not raise their young anywhere close to a wind turbine. Are the hunting days at risk here in our own county?
We can not express strongly enough our concern for our southern county citizens. Please be cautious as to all agreements that you enter into. After months and years of dealing with wind company representatives, we have lost all respect for their character. The representatives and the wind companies seem to have zero morals and values.
We have heard that both NextEra and Invenergy continue to use the tactic of telling landowners that all their neighbors have already signed up. We have seen NextEra’s recent newspaper ads with deceptive promises. It appears that Invenergy dug a hole in December 2018 in Brown County, poured in 2-4 loads of concrete, and covered it up, just to claim they started the project to qualify for tax abatement. The above examples help us realize what kind of companies we are dealing with. They make it hard for us to believe that NextEra or Invenergy will be companies of character any better than our direct experience with JW Wind & JUWI.
We have recently been approached by Invenergy asking to lease our land. We can tell you, without a doubt, we will never enter into another wind turbine lease agreement.
After our experiences with the Flat Water project, the neighbors in our area all joined forces and met with our county commissioners (two of the three present commissioners) to establish Resolution 2012-8. We felt much relief with the implementation of 3000 foot residential and 1500 foot property line setbacks. That action bought us five years. On December 12, 2016, the commissioners passed Resolution 2016-8 which rescinds Resolution 2012-8 (and its setback protection), leaving our county with no protection.
We hope that the commissioners can once again implement action that will protect the citizens of our county.
Craig Strahm, Todd Rokey and Judd Meyer
Paid for by Nemaha County Concerned Citizens