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Tower OK'd for wind project

A meteorological tower for a proposed wind farm can be constructed in Waltham Township and, despite the landowner’s objections, it must have features for aircraft safety.

The Mower County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a conditional-use permit for the tower, which will collect wind data. It also stuck to similar conditions it placed in May on another permit this year for the same kind of tower.

Last May, the board heard concerns about aircraft – medical helicopters and crop dusters – not seeing the towers, which are smaller than 200 feet.

James Hartson, the landowner who made the request, said it doesn’t look like the county has had any continuity in how it has placed conditions on permits for “met” towers in recent years. Hartson’s request with Community Wind Development Group is the 12th for a met tower since January 2003 in the county.

The tower will be 190 feet tall, Hartson said, which doesn’t require special lighting or markings under federal aviation rules. He asked the board to relax its new policy that requires such a tower to be lighted and painted red and white.

“I see that it serves no purpose,” Hartson said, adding that it will burden his project.

Hartson claimed his project, if it comes to fruition, will be the area’s first farmer-owned wind farm. Wind mills could be constructed next year, he said.

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said the board felt the new conditions are needed to address safety concerns with aircraft in the most cost-effective way.

Board member Dave Tollefson voted to approve the conditions although he previously indicated a different attitude when the Planning Commission first heard Hartson’s request. At that time, Tollefson said he thought the board maybe overreacted when it added more conditions in May.

On Tuesday, though, Tollefson said he just wants the board to have continuity for permitting met towers.

The tower, which will be on vacant farm land east of Minnesota Highway 56, also must have 20-foot-long plastic sleeves colored red and white that are centered on each of its guy wires.

Community Wind Development Group, based in Bingham Lake, Minn., is petitioner for the tower along with Hartson and his wife Jane. Community Wind mainly focuses on assisting communities, farmers and small businesses with renewable energy projects.

By Tim Ruzek


12 July 2007