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Excerpt: Watonwan County Board meeting  

December 19, 2006

Environmental Services Officer Johnson was present to review five Conditional Use Permit Applications to develop wind farms in Odin Township. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the applications on a 4-2 vote with no conditions attached. Seven interested parties were present for the discussion. Each project will have one turbine that generates 2 megawatts and each is under separate ownership. Dan Juhl of New World Power Corporation stated that the combined projects constitute a Community Based Energy Development (CBED), which is an economic development tool for individual ownership. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has said they encourage such groupings to avoid additional costs, and similar combined projects have been erected in several other counties.

Odin Township resident Troy Wegner stated that the turbines will be too close to neighboring properties. It was noted that County policy requires a 750 feet setback, and that would be the minimum distance between the turbines. County Attorney LaMar Piper rendered his opinion that the combined projects constitute a “large wind energy conversion system” with a combined capacity of 5,000 kilowatts or more. He stated that Minnesota Statutes M.S. 216F.01 require systems of such size to be approved by the PUC. Piper recommended rejection of the applications so they can be brought before the PUC. In rebuttal, Charlie Daum, representing the project owners, stated that each project is being applied for under separately organized LLC companies, and each turbine will be separately metered.

Daniel Yarano, Attorney for the project owners, reported on a conversation with Larry Hartman who is responsible for state site permitting, who stated that they do not look at it as a large project, and that the State has no interest in permitting this project. Daum reviewed an e-mail from Mike Bull at the Department of Commerce stating that they will not object or contest the County’s permitting the project. Commissioner Sanders reported that he spoke with MCIT attorneys who agree with County Attorney Piper’s opinion. He would like a legal opinion from Bull or someone at the State with the authority to make a determination in this situation, stating that the County has a defensible authority to grant a conditional use permit to each project, and in his legal opinion 216C does not apply to these projects. Daum stated that he could get the requested letter. By general consensus, the Board agreed to recess the meeting to allow Daum time to obtain the requested letter.


Legals pubished in the February 15, 2007 Plaindealer


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