Construction of nine wind turbines in Goodhue County is expected to begin this summer now that a state commission has approved a final site permit for the project.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 on Thursday to issue the permit to Kenyon Wind LLC for the 18.9-megawatt large wind-energy conversion system east of the city of Kenyon in Cherry Grove and Kenyon townships. The power generated will be sold to Xcel Energy.
The commission’s decision at a meeting in St. Paul came after more debate on the project involving Kenyon Wind investors and a group of township residents who opposed the plan, the Citizens for Environmental Rights and Safety.
Carol Overland, a Red Wing attorney representing the citizens’ group, said the permit process should give details about the impact on wetlands, the minimum distance from turbines to homes and roads, and the establishment of a decommissioning fund. Some residents against the plan are worried the turbines will hurt property values, be noisy, create stray voltage and possibly cause damage in a catastrophe.
Overland said the permit for the project is the first requested under the new Community Based Energy Development legislation. It’s setting a precedent, Overland said, and “needs to be done correctly.”
Members of the utilities commission adopted the findings of fact and the site permit without amending them during the meeting. The commission can update the site permit, if needed, any time before it expires in 2037.
Leroy Koppendrayer, chairman of the commission, said the issues raised by the public were addressed to his satisfaction, although they’re probably not addressed to the satisfaction of all those who live in the area where the wind turbines will be built.
“We do the best we can and do what’s in the public interest,” he said.
Following the meeting, John H. Daniels Jr., a Minneapolis attorney and chief manager for Kenyon Wind, said the permitting process had worked well. Although they disagreed at times, both sides listened to each other, and some changes were made because of it, he said.
“I think the right thing is being done,” Daniels said of the commission’s approval.
Kenyon Wind is a Minneapolis-based company owned by Daniels, his wife, and two other Minnesotans. Their financial partner in the project is Edison Mission Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Southern California Edison.
Daniels said the Kenyon Wind project shows there is room for “the little guy in the electrical generation business.”
Members of the citizens’ group said the decision by the commission didn’t come as a surprise.
“We did what we could do,” said Russ Foss, a retired farmer who lives in Kenyon Township. “We followed the procedure. We’re disappointed, but that’s the process.”
Foss declined to sell his wind rights to Kenyon Wind when asked months ago. One of the investors asked Foss again after the commission meeting, and his answer was still “no.” Kenyon Wind already has agreements to lease land from other property owners in the project area.
Mike Chase, the president of the citizens’ group and a resident of Cherry Grove Township, said the group would consider its next move, which could mean appealing the decision. Chase said citizens would continue to follow the project closely.
“We’re going to be very loud and clear, and we’re going to hold them to their word,” he said.
By Dawn Schuett
15 June 2007
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