February 16, 2008

County to take up wind ordinance issue Tuesday

Lyon County will assume control over larger wind–tower projects if the county board passes a resolution to do so at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Minnesota law allows counties to have authority of wind projects up to 25 megawatts but less than 25 megawatts, county zoning administrator John Biren said.

A key part of state allow requires the state to consider county ordinances when the state considers a permit for a project of 25 megawatts or larger.

A 25-megawatt project is larger than the nine wind tower and turbine project under construction by the Rahn group and John Deere in Sodus Township.

Although the state will permit projects of 25 megawatts or larger, a new law will also require the state to consider county ordinances when it reviews those projects.

“The state must show (just reasons) why they wouldn’t (use) the county ordinance on a 25-megawatt or larger project,” Biren said.

The Lyon County ordinance on wind projects is stricter than state regulations in several ways, Biren and county commissioner Bob Fenske said.

“We have more stringent regulations,” Biren said. “The state allows towers to be closer to the roads.”

“On the distance to the road right-of-ways and our ordinance as far as crossing roads (with tower pieces and equipment), we are stricter than the state,” Fenske said.

If the county assumes authority of larger projects it will be during a time when development will continue in the county and region, Biren said.

“It allows us to have authority over a lot more projects,” Biren said. “The county will be dealing with small towers and we will see more constructed for businesses and farms (and projects) all the way up to less than 25 megawatts.”

The resolution follows updates to the county’s wind ordinance.

The county passed a wind ordinance last year that was effective for the Rahn Group project.

Changes in the ordinance will be effective March 1, Biren said.

The county will still require projects of more than 100 kilowatts to use the conditional use permit but ordinance changes solidify setbacks and other requirements, Biren said.

The changes also include a decommissioning portion which requires property owners to be responsible for dismantling a tower and turbine when it is no longer operated.

Fenske said landowners on the tower sites need to be aware that they don’t want the tower builders and users to walk away from the structure once they are in operable.

“The person on the deed, the owner of the project will be responsible for decommissioning,” Biren said.

If no one is responsible for decommissioning the towers, the towers could remain standing while unused.

The city of Marshall recently removed the cement bases for several wind towers that stood along North 7th Street near the ethanol plant.

It took at least five years from the time the towers were no longer in use to have the towers dismantled and the concrete bases removed, city officials said.

Marshall city engineer/director of public works Glenn Olson said the company that had owned the wind towers had financial problems and contract the city had for it to dismantle or decommission the towers could not be enforced.

“It’s important to have (a requirement) to remove the tower and dispose of the pieces…but you can only make that as strong as the wording says,” OIson said.

The city ended up paying for the removal of the concrete bases at a cost of $2,500 apiece, Olson said. The cost was much lower than the city anticipated, Olson said.

The city had started to remove a concrete base to see the depth and size of the bases and then determined it could hire a contractor, Olson said.

“We were kind of surprised at the (low) cost,” Olson said. “We thought removing the bases would be a whole lot more difficult.”

A salvage company had dismantled the tower and turbines a few years prior to removal of the bases, Olson said.

The company took the value of the items salvaged, Olson said.

The steel, copper and other metal make dismantling a tower and its pieces affordable for a company, Biren and Olson said.

“The salvage value is enough for now…but what can we predict it’s going to be 20 or 30 years from now,” Biren said.

Fenske said the county has talked of requiring developers and/or owners to have a bond or cash fund that would be used to help pay for the decommissioning wind towers. The county has not yet pursued that idea.

Olson said that it may be smart for the county to require such a fund or bond.

By Rae Kruger

The Independent

16 February 2008

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2008/02/16/county-to-take-up-wind-ordinance-issue-tuesday/