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Tower may make way for more wind turbines

What do Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Mower County Planning Commission have in common?

Answer: They both did something good for the environment last Thursday.

Gov. Pawlenty signed into law a bill requiring 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable power sources by 2025.

The bill sailed through the Minnesota Legislature last week and Pawlenty made it law Thursday before the Mower County Planning Commission met that evening.

What was the Mower County Planning Commission’s role in the renewable energy milestone?

Answer: They unanimously agreed to recommend approval of a conditional use permit request from enXco Inc., Minneapolis, to construct a meteorological tower in Dexter Township.

The tower will be necessary to collect wind data for a new wind energy program coming to Mower County.

“It’s very exciting considering what the Governor has done for renewable energy by signing into law the 25-by-25 bill. We’re part of that,” Steve Edwards, enXco’s representative, said at the Thursday night meeting.

Garwin McNeilus, Dodge Center, was the first to construct wind turbines in Mower County. His 14-turbine wind farm in Adams Township is a familiar sight towering over the community of Adams south of town.

Then came wind turbine projects in east central Mower County from Florida Power & Light and Horizon Wind. The latter is the largest wind energy project underway in the county with 63 turbines going up this summer.

enXco has had a presence in Mower County for several years and is a separate entity from the other wind energy developers, according to Edwards.

enXco wants to erect a 50-meter tall meteorological tower in Section 17, Grand Meadow Township on land owned by Harold and Helen Thaden.

The guyed tower will be powered by solar energy and built in the near-center of the section.

Audience members raised questions, but no objections to the project, which still needs the Mower County Board of Commissioners’ approval.

Edwards had no details about the wind turbines to come. Nor did he have information about who will buy the electricity.

“Negotiations have been going on for some time now with power companies,” he said. “The feedback has all been good, and now that the Governor has signed the new renewable energy standards bill, this should have an even more positive impact on this project.”

Jim Risius, Austin, made the motion to recommend approval. Myles Bendtsen, Rose Creek, seconded it, and all commissioners present voted “Aye.”

The Mower County Board of Commissioners will consider the request and the planning commission’s recommendation at a public hearing scheduled 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 6.

Minnesota remains at the forefront of the national push to use more renewable energy.

Today in Minnesota, about half the state’s power is produced from coal and only 5 percent from renewable sources.

By Lee Bonorden
Austin Daily Herald