HAYFIELD – Local farmer John Kruger’s phone has been ringing a lot lately and the topic of conversation is usually the same – wind turbines.
He is among the Dodge County farmers being heavily courted by wind farm developers eager to lock up lease agreements for wind turbines. In recent months, Kruger said he gets an average of two to three phone calls a week from developers looking to make a deal.
“I haven’t made my mind up if it is a thing I’d be interested in,” he said.
Kruger joined about 100 residents Thursday at a public forum to learn more about wind power. Dodge County’s Economic Development Authority sponsored the event.
The wind farms can be a boon for farmers, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in lease payments. But experts urge residents to speak with an attorney before signing leases.
In 1999, Minnesota produced a total of 273 megawatts. That has since grown to more than 1,300 megawatts. Recently, attention has shifted to Dodge, Mower and Olmsted counties, according to Adam Sokolski, a project manager for the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
In Dodge County alone, there are three wind farm projects that could bring hundreds of new turbines to the county. These projects have plenty of potential benefits, including tax revenue and new jobs. But there are other issues to consider too, said Annette Bair, a Clean Energy Resource Team coordinator in southwest Minnesota. Those issues include noise, appearance, shadow flicker (from sunlight hitting the blades) and construction work needed to install the turbines.
For example, Mower County Engineer Mike Hanson said city staff were not prepared for the massive size of the semi-trailers and cranes used to install wind turbines. In one instance, a crane sank 4-inches into an asphalt road, and getting the equipment across bridges could be a challenge. Ultimately, he said, the developer helped pay the cost of road repairs, but township and county officials need to be aware of the risk.
Resident Renata Ducharme voiced concern about the potential noise generated from wind turbines.
“I just want (the wind turbines) to be a reasonable setback from my land,” she said.
Sokolski said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rules require noise not exceed 50 decibels at a residence. The minimum setback for wind turbines is 750 feet, but it often ends up being 1,500 feet because of the noise regulations, he said. The state’s Public Utilities Commission is responsible for permitting all wind farms over 25 megawatts. Most of the proposals in Dodge County are upward of 200 megawatts.
By Heather J. Carlson
29 February 2008
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