Days after several Freeborn County wind turbines had to be shut down after a chunk of ice fell off a blade and landed on a passing semi truck, a family whose home lies within feet of the proposed Freeborn Wind Farm project said they're concerned about something similar happening at their home.
Jacob Schumacher and his family, including kids Josey and James, moved to their home in rural Freeborn County in October 2015. They knew there were some plans regarding a wind farm in the area but said they didn't think the project would come to fruition so soon.
Now, Schumacher said they could be looking at a nearly 500-foot-tall turbine about a quarter-mile from their front door.
"So we walk out our door and straight in front of our house is where the turbine is scheduled to be," he said.
Falling Ice From Wind Turbine Worries Family Near Proposed Project
The turbine would sit just off his property but adjacent to where they keep their animals, including cattle and horses. After hearing about the falling ice, he said he's more concerned about his family's well-being.
"I don't know how close that one was to the road, but I fear it can't be a whole lot farther away than what this one is going to be from my property," Schumacher said. "My kids, if they go out into the pasture, riding their horses on a day like today, can that ice be coming off, can we be putting our family in danger?"
Schumacher also said he worries about the noise at night, which could further upset both his and his wife's insomnia. Like other homeowners in the area, he said he expects to also lose value on their home if the project is approved.
Thomas Martinez, a DFL candidate for state district 27A currently represented by Republican Peggy Bennett, said he's in favor of green energy to combat climate change and boost the local economy. That being said, he said he empathizes with those who have concerns about the project, which would see nearly 100 turbines spread across Freeborn County as well as neighboring Worth County in Iowa.
"They need to have their grievances addressed, but to derail a multimillion-dollar company from Albert Lea again is not something we should do," he said.
Schumacher isn't opposed to green energy, either-- he worked in the industry for years. In this case, though, he said the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
"I'm sorry but [...] there's no amount of money that's enough comfort for my kids being put in harm's way," he said.
The portion of the wind farm in Iowa has already been approved, while the portion on the Minnesota side of the border is still being considered by the state's Public Utilities Commission. At a public hearing in Albert Lea Tuesday, Rich Davis from the Minnesota Department of Commerce said a decision about whether to approve the permits for the project could come in June or July.
If approved, proponents say it could be operational by 2020 and bring 200 temporary and 10 permanent jobs, as well as millions of dollars in landowner and tax payments, to the region.
More information about the project can be found here: http://freebornwindfarm.com/
Disclosure: ABC 6 has filed comments with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regarding the Freeborn Wind Farm project to ensure it does not adversely affect viewers' ability to watch our station over-the-air.