‘Blowback on wind project” (Business, Nov. 19) highlighted the concerns of a few citizens, while ignoring the latest science, data and real-world experience of thousands of Minnesotans living and working near wind farms.

Across southern Minnesota, the wind blows strong and steady, and for two decades, farmers from our region have harvested this natural resource, just as they’ve harvested corn and soybeans for generations. More clean energy is coming to Minnesota and, for a variety of reasons, that’s a good thing for our state.

My House district, which covers Lincoln, Pipestone, Murray, Nobles and Rock counties, is home to more wind power development than any other in the state. And I’ve seen firsthand how these projects are breathing new life into many communities in those areas. It is abundantly clear that wind power isn’t just a safe way to generate clean energy, it’s also a proven job creator and economic stimulus for our state’s rural communities.

When I was first elected in 2010, the town of Hardwick in Rock County had lost its gas station and was debating whether it could keep its post office. But once a new wind farm started going up, it changed everything.

The project developer put an office in town; hundreds of workers followed. During construction, they spent locally, which helped keep restaurants, gas stations and hotels thriving. More than a few of these workers stayed in the community to maintain the wind farm. Now the post office is staying, the local eatery is thriving and their gas station is back. Local farmers are also seeing stable, new income from leasing their land to the project developer.

More recently, I visited the Red Pine Wind Farm in Lincoln County, which is expected to come online in the next couple of months. I was pleased to see that the response from the community was overwhelmingly positive. The project is employing approximately 300 workers during the construction phase, and 140 local landowners will receive annual lease payments from the developer once the project is complete.

Today, counties in my district receive nearly $4 million annually from wind development, which is used to provide tax relief for all residents, support schools, improve roads and bridges, and invest in other infrastructure projects that benefit everyone. Rural areas have a hard time attracting the kind of big businesses that can drive economic development and offer jobs that can support families. We hear all too often about the next generation leaving our region for opportunities in the Twin Cities and other metro areas. But it is clear to me that clean energy is a cornerstone of our strategy to retain these families and attract new ones.

The wind industry has invested nearly $7 billion in our state to date. Thousands of Minnesotans work in this sector. And there is much more on the horizon. As this industry grows, I encourage project developers to remain committed to working closely with host communities and local landowners to make sure their concerns are heard throughout the development process. Wind energy is a success story for rural Minnesota and I hope to see more communities benefit from this opportunity.

Perhaps more important, credible, peer-reviewed scientific data and various government reports in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. refute the claim that wind farms cause negative health impacts. We also have real-world examples from right here in our state. There are hundreds of wind turbines operating safely and with little complaint in my district. In contrast, wind farms have a positive impact on human health, as they produce electricity without pollution.

I’m confident that a careful examination of the facts will continue to show the value of making our state a leader in wind energy development. Let’s keep rural Minnesota growing and open for business.

 

Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, is a member of the Minnesota House.