In early 2017, a group of
landowners in southern Minnesota grew concerned over the potential
proliferation of wind
turbines in their community. These residents felt these projects were unsafe
and an inappropriate use of land rights, privacy and federal tax subsidies.
These landowners formed Wind Locked LLC to prevent the unsafe construction and
operation of large industrial wind towers.
In Minnesota, wind rights are
separate from land rights, so Wind Locked acquires and holds wind easement
rights for conservation and environmental purposes. Once Wind Locked acquires
the wind rights, it allows them to protect,
preserve and manage the airspace effectively in that area. Wind Locked does not
restrict private wind generators used for individual power generation, but
rather focuses on larger industrial projects. They educate landowners on wind
turbines and how the fine print in contracts with wind companies can end up
costing landowners money.
The current president of
Wind Locked is Carolyn Zierke, an agronomist who has worked in southern
Minnesota for over 20 years. She decided to get involved with wind rights when
she saw developers taking advantage of land owners who were lured into
partnering by signing contracts for quick cash. “I got involved with wind
because I was tired of seeing how the other side takes advantage of landowners,
and they had no concern for rural residents, the land or aerial applicators,”
Wind Locked’s latest education effort
is their “Keep ’em Flying” campaign, designed to protect eagles, bats and
aerial applicators. In August 2016 an experienced ag pilot tragically died
in southwest Minnesota where turbines are abundant. The aircraft struck a wire
attached to a tower that monitored wind conditions for nearby turbines.
“We want pilots to do their job
effectively and safely. The members of Wind Locked are proud of their productive
land, record crops and quiet rural homes just as the aerial pilots are proud
of their planes, airspace, families and jobs protecting customers crops,” Zierke said.
is an all-volunteer organization, with a board of directors elected by its
members. Members of the board are all involved in local agricultural work and
own homes and/or farms in the area. “They all also have children, sports,
farming and community events they juggle. We are all people that want to
retain all our land rights to plant a tree or put up a grain leg or hunt on our
land when we want to without asking permission. These are all investments we
value and do not want someone else’s asset attached to our land, or impeding
our airspace in our backyard,” said Zieke. “The passion drives us. We are doing
this for our neighbors, our families and for future generations who want to
live and farm in an Ag/residential Zone and not an Industrial Zone.”
get started, Wind Locked reached out to the Iowa Coalition for Rural Property Rights,
a group that was formed to protect against the encroachment of wind installations.
By connecting via Facebook, they were able to discuss their shared challenges. “Social
media is connecting us across the country; Facebook and Twitter have made our
group stronger” said Zierke.
Locked has also helped a group in a different part of Minnesota set up their
own LLC called Wesner Grove Wind
Locked to educate landowners on what wind leases actually mean for them, and protect their own area by holding the local wind rights.
When asked what
advice Zieke would give to other groups that rely heavily on volunteers for them
to operate successfully, she said, “Organize and
stay tight as a group. Set up a Facebook Group. Stay informed and meet often
and keep an upbeat attitude. Something that is emotionally draining and
close to home can take its toll; support each other and keep driving your
NAAA started its
wind tower safety education campaign in 2010 to ensure that farmers are fully
informed before making decisions about wind energy development. NAAA most
recently developed “Learn Before You
Lease” ads that
encourage landowners and growers to consider all the facts and potential
ramifications before they lease their property to a wind energy entity. Part of
this education campaign includes informing landowners of the potential liability
that comes with the construction of wind turbines, considering the widow of an
ag pilot in California was awarded a $6.7 million
settlement after her husband
struck a metrological evaluation tower resulting in his death.
To find out more about Wind Locked, you can go to its website at www.windlocked.com or Twitter page, @windlockedllc.