Conifer Power speaks to turbine coalition

Tom Swierczewski provides insight to Tama County Against Wind Turbine Coalition on their concerns regarding turbines during the Monday night supervors meeting. Photo by Cyote Williams

Conifer Power Company attended the most recent Tama county board of supervisors meeting, and every meeting since April 25.

Tom Swierczewski stood in front of the packed board room to address some of the main concerns behind the Tama County Against Wind Turbines coalition.

“I’ve stayed silent until now because Confier Power didn’t feel the need to take valuable time from your community during these meetings to answer questions about Salt Creek wind, because it has been clear to us that there is little interest in the truth.” opened Swierczekski.

“Put simply, Salt Creek wind once built will be an economic engine for Tama County.”

According to the Iowa Environmental Council, “Iowa is the first state to generate more than 30 percent of its electricity with wind power. Iowa also ranks second nationally in the amount of wind energy installed with 6,952 MW (2016).”

Swierczewski’s intentions of speaking during the board meeting were clear; he wanted to educate the coalition on some of the misinformation that has been going around while also bringing forth benefits that come from wind energy.

“Conifer power has been paying close attention to the various complaints of surrounding wind energy generators, Salt Creek Wind specifically. Of all of the complaints, two in particular warrant a brief comment this morning.” said Swierczewski.

He would go on to list these complaints as the potential interferrencing of the county’s new E911 system, and the excavation sites started to become filled with water.

The turbine coalition has voiced their concern around potential interference with the E911 system, noting the system’s $6.5 million dollar price tag, adding that little has been done in the way of avoiding building turbines that would interfere with the emergency communication line.

“Conifer power has no intention to interfere with that critical and important system. In fact the opposite is true. As a business on the verge of investing nearly $300 million dollars in rural Tama county we are highly interested in first rate emergency services. With that said, in the next week or so Conifer Power will be providing a letter with some technical documentation and reports to the E911 committee that we hope will address their concerns.”

Swierczewski continued to assure those in attendance that Conifer Power is committed to this, stating that representatives would attend the E911’s board meetings in the future and continue to answer any questions that might arise.

“In the highly unlikely event that there is a conflict caused by Salt Creek Wind to existing telecommunications infrastructure, Salt Creek Wind is fully committed to immediately correcting the issue and restoring the system to service as swiftly as possible at no cost to Tama County.”

said Swierczewski.

One of the recent issues that was brought to light by the turbine coalition was that the foundation excavations have essentially become swimming pools that could pose potential harm to people and local wildlife.

“These are not swimming pools in town. They’re construction sites, many hundreds of feet in the middle of farm fields on private property, with anywhere from a few inches of water to a few feet of water. Swimming pool regulations and comparisons simply don’t apply. They pose as much danger to the community as any small farm pond or stream does now.” Swierczewski said about the claims.

“However, with an abundance of caution we are working with the zoning commission, land owners and construction team to determine what should be done at each excavation site, if anything. As that progresses we will keep Tama county posted.”

Swierczewski stated at the beginning of his speech that he would not be taking any questions, and that several opportunities to meet with the coalition have been turned down.

This did not stop two of the leaders of the turbine coalition Richard Arp and John Winkelpleck from commenting.

“We as a leadership are more interested in changing the ordinances, and we don’t see Salt Creek and Conifer as the people who will update the ordinances.” said Arp.

Winkelpleck added “We are here to update and strengthen the ordinances of Tama county. Meeting with you folks is pointless, you are only in a meeting for your own benefit. I’ve been approached by one of your land owners more than once. I have no interest in meeting with you folks on a one on one meeting with Bob Bergstrom in Kurt Burns kitchen.”

This interaction was then cut off by the board in the interest of continuing with the meeting.

Arp filed a lawsuit against Tama County on June 23, the board discussed hiring attorney Carlton Salmons as counsel for Tama County. Salmons originally advised the board to reaffirm their current ordinances and avoid making comments on the questions posed by the turbine coalition.

Supervisor Larry Vest made the motion to approve Salmons, which was seconded by supervisor Dan Anderson and ultimately approved.