It costs $546 to obtain a conditional use permit from Mower County.
If a petitioner successfully meets the criteria established by the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance and agrees to any conditions applied to the permit, all that is needed is the Mower County Planning Commission’s endorsement and finally, the Mower County Board’s approval.
Then, a $546 CUP is issued.
No petitioner has ever been put through the “wringer” of scrutiny more than enXco Inc.
On Tuesday night, the firm received the Mower County Planning Commission’s unanimous endorsement for a 161 kv substation in Section 8 of Grand Meadow Township.
The planning commission’s recommendation will be heard by the Mower County Board of Commissioners at a public hearing scheduled 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 11.
Ian Krygowski, enXco Inc.’s project developer for the Midwest region, said it is paramount that wherever enXco goes, “We try to integrate well within the community and avoid any hard feelings with our neighbors.”
In this case, that was done to the “nth” degree.
Even Vicky Hessenius, one of the original complaining citizens, said that after still another delay in the project to satisfy concerns of Mower County residents.
Hessenius said a month ago, “I think we have learned more about this project and its impact from Ian than we have from our own county officials and staff who were supposed to investigate it.”
There is a “60-day rule,” which requires CUPs to be decided within that period of time. If the county can’t do that, the request is automatically approved.
Krygowski went so far as to voluntarily waive the 60-day rule to allow residents to raise more issues, ask more questions and complain about the proposed wind energy project even longer.
EAW, sub-station raise questions
Krygowski appeared before the planning commission Jan. 22 for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet on the proposed wind energy project’s 161 kv high voltage transmission line and substation.
Exercising their citizen rights, Vicky and Mark Hessenius, David Morrison and Dan Page.
They questioned the findings of the EAW and backed up their complaints with written documents.
The possible devaluation of property, electro-magnetic transmissions and their possible dangers, light and noise from the substation, quality of life issues for residents near the sub-station and transmission line, the perceived “eyesore” and dangers posed by the transmission lines to crop dusters and other aircraft pilots.
The commission agreed to recommend approval of the EAW, but to also advise the county commissioners not to ignore the issues, concerns and considerations raised by citizens.
Krygowski had no objects to that recommendation.
When Feb. 12 arrived and the county commissioners held a public hearing to accept the EAW, another red flag waved at the wind energy project.
“EnXco is committed to developing high quality wind projects,” Krygowski told the county commissioners Feb. 12. “As such we welcome this opportunity to work with members of the community and will endeavor to address the concerns that have been raised.”
Krygowski agreed to waive enXco Inc.’s privilege of receiving a decision within the 60-day period.
Vicky Hessenius had more questions about the reliability of the EAW’s data, but ended up praising Krygowski for demonstrating “goodwill” toward the citizens by agreeing to another delay.
EnXco Inc. may not be used to such microscopic examination by four citizens.
The two-decades-old firm put together a $385 million financial package with Union Bank of California and GE Energy Financial Services for Minnesota’s largest wind farm project near Fenton.
At the time, the project pushed enXco Inc.’s U.S. wind development project portfolio to over $1 billion.
Construction of the 205-megawatt project is complete and the facility is operational.
EnXco Inc., an affiliate of EdF Energies Nouvelles, has more than 4,200 wind turbines, producing more then 1,100 megawatts of electricity.
The Mower County wind project will involve 137 wind turbines constructed in 2 phases and producing overt 200 megawatts of electricity.
A month ago, enXco Inc. dedicated its first solar project in Fresno, Calif.
The unassuming Krygowski works for anything but a “mom and pop” renewable energy employer.
Risius worries over lost ag land
At Tuesday night’s planning commission meeting, Daryl W. Franklin, environmental services director for Mower County, gave the staff report.
The decision by enXco Inc. to move its sub-station siting to Section 7, Grand Meadow Township, moved it north of Interstate 90 from the original site on Paul Merz-owned land.
The new site is on property owned by the Linus and Edna Knobbe estate.
Both sides – Krygowski and the planning commission – agreed: avoiding tall trees around transmission lines or the sub-station is a priority.
Six conditions on the CUP were applied for the five-acre site.
Planning commission members Barb Hovde, LeRoy, and Jim Risius, Austin, joined Franklin in making an on-site inspection.
No real objections were raised, but commission member Risius questioned another instance of taking ag land out of production. “There’s just getting to be more and more of this all the time,” said Risius.
According to Risius, he visited with Ray Tucker, 2nd District county commissioner, who agreed: the sitings of the sub-station and any operations and maintenance shops should be in or near the city limits of a community.
“Our preference is to locate our facilities within the city limits of the area we are located,” said Krygowski.
Jim Davis of the Grand Meadow Township Board informed the planning commission’s inspection team the board had no objections to the sub-station siting.
Commission member Harlan Peck said, “We might just as well get used to these wind turbines. They are everywhere.”
Commission member Hovde said pursuing renewable energy projects was “not a bad thing.” According to Hovde, “I think we need to ‘go green’.”
Another commission member, Jane Thome, Adams, said county officials must weigh all considerations before making a decision on such requests. “I think we must be more diligent in what we do,” Thome said.
Krygowski admitted “Most of the 5 acres will be used for the sub-station” at the new site.
Krygowski also said every effort is being undertaken to “respect both farming and non-farming residents with our wind project.”
The discussion over, Peck made the motion to recommend accepting the findings of fact and granting the CUP to enXco Inc. Thome seconded it. All four commission members present voted yes.
EnXco Inc. already has the county’s approval for a CUP for the 161 kv high voltage transmission line and the project’s EAW.
The sub-station CUP will be considered by the county commissioners in two weeks.
None of the concerned citizens attended Tuesday night’s meeting.
By Lee Bonorden
28 February 2008
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