Construction of a 63-unit wind energy farm that will stretch across four Mower County townships and provide additional energy for Austin residents received the Mower County Board of Commissioners’ unequivocal support Tuesday.
Both High Prairie Wind Farm II’s environmental assessment and a conditional use permit to construct, operate and maintain a 161 kv substation and high voltage transmission line powered by wind energy were approved.
A week ago, the Mower County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the twin requests.
This marks the latest of two large wind energy projects in Mower County.
Florida Power & Light has its own 43-wind turbine project in central Mower County along with the necessary substation and high voltage transmission line feeding into the substation east of Adams along Highway 56.
Now, High Prairie (owned by New Horizon Wind Energy) is building a 63 wind turbine farm of its own.
The first wind farm was that of Garwin McNeilus, a Dodge Center pioneer in development of wind energy in Dodge and Mower Counties. He had 14 wind turbines erected in Adams Township.
When all of the wind turbines are erected and operational, there will be a total of 118 in Mower County.
High Prairie’s giant steel towers will stretch from Clayton Township, through Bennington and Grand Meadow township and on to Lodi Township when complete.
They will connect with the FPL transmission line before the electricity is “dumped” into the Adams substation.
Kate Wattson, development analyst and spokesperson for High Prairie, appeared before the county board Tuesday morning at a public hearing on the requests.
Two weeks ago, High Prairie held an informational meeting on its wind energy project at Grumpy’s Restaurant in Grand Meadow.
Throughout the application projects, no objections have been forthcoming.
Watson said the environmental assessment showed a “minimal impact” on the environment and related construction parameters in Mower County and a “very positive impact” on the socio-economic climate by every other measurement.
Also, agreements have been obtained for construction of the substation and erection of the transmission lines from satisfied landowners.
The new 161 kv high voltage transmission line will stretch 3 1/2 miles, where it will connect with the FPL high voltage transmission line.
Ray Tucker, who represents the 2nd District, where the wind energy projects are being constructed, said they will be a boon to electrical energy production.
“The power they will create will be sold to Great River Energy, which has a plant in Pleasant Valley Township,” Tucker said.
Garry Ellingson, 5th District, said even Austin will reap some of the positive impact predicted by High Prairie’s Watson.
“They’ve (GRE) already got a line coming into the Austin Utilities’ plant in Austin, so we could also see some of the benefits right here in the city,” Ellingson said.
Daryl W. Franklin, Mower County planner and zoning administrator, verified “No objections were heard by the planning commission at their Dec. 19 meeting on either the environmental assessment or the CUP request.”
Tucker made the motion and Ellingson seconded it to grant approval of the environmental assessment and CUP request. All five commissioners voted “Aye.”
“We look forward to the start of construction of the new wind turbines in the spring,” Dave Hillier, 3rd District and chairman of the county board, told Wattson.
Also Tuesday, a CUP request from Jill Anderson to operate a riding stable as an extended home occupation permitted business was unanimously approved with little discussion.
Another CUP request from Merlin, Donna and Jim Hansen to operate a hog wash out on their farm was also unanimously approved by the county commissioners.
By Lee Bonorden/Austin Daily Herald
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