AUSTIN, Minn. – The federal government has given the green light to a major wind energy project near Austin
that had been held up over concerns that it might interfere with military radar systems.
Construction crews began building the first of 43 wind generators near Austin this month after FPL Energy received a “determination of no hazard” letter last month from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA had sent FPL Energy a letter of “presumed hazard” in May that delayed the $150 million, 100-megwatt project.
The project will be built over the next six weeks, said Lanie Fagan, a spokeswoman for the Juno Beach, Fla.-based company.
Two other companies that are ready to commit nearly $600 million to capital projects in southwestern Minnesota are still waiting for approval.
The radar issue stems from a dispute that began in Cape Cod, Mass., where residents were unhappy that a proposed offshore wind project they said would spoil their coastal views. That apparently led to a provision attached to a national defense bill in January that required the Department of Defense to study whether big wind turbines interfere with military radar.
The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security then adopted an interim policy blocking construction until the study is completed, or until specific wind projects could be reviewed and determined not to be within the fields of military radar systems.
More than a dozen proposed wind farms in the Upper Midwest were affected.
The study has not been completed, said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, but officials have been reviewing projects and allowing some to proceed.
Jan Johnson, spokeswoman for PPM Energy Inc. of Portland, Ore., said the company’s 150-megawatt wind farm straddling Minnesota and South Dakota seems to close to approval, though PPM did not yet have approval in writing.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll get final clearance from FAA in the next week or so, and we’d like to begin construction in September,” Johnson said.
The $250 million wind farm will be built southwest of Lake Benton, with two-thirds of its turbines in Minnesota and the rest in South Dakota.
A 205-megawatt wind farm planned by North Palm Springs, Calif.-based enXco Inc. is also in the final stages of discussion, regional project development manager Ian Krygowski said.
“We’re pretty sure we’ll be able to get this squared away shortly,” he said. The $320 million to $350 million project would be built near Chandler.
Two smaller wind energy projects near Worthington also are progressing, said Kevin Walli, an attorney for their owners. A four-turbine proposal has been approved, Walli said, and a 10-turbine project might receive the go-ahead in the next week or so.
It’s welcome news for utilities that plan to buy power from the wind farms.
“We’re able to maintain national security, and we will be able to serve our customers with much more cost-effective wind power,” said Steve Roalstad, a spokesman for Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. Utilities will be able to purchase power at lower cost, he said, because wind farms up and running before the end of 2007 will qualify for a 10-year federal tax credit.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding