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County considers wind energy ordinance  

As general manager of Northwest Municipal Power Agency, Darryl Tveitbakk believes that wind energy could be a viable energy source in the future. But as a county commissioner, Tveitbakk feels that Pennington County needs to create an ordinance that would define where wind-powered generators can be constructed within the county.

Tveitbakk told his fellow commissioners on Tuesday (March 11) that there has been some interest in constructing wind-powered generators on private property within Pennington County.

As it stands now, there is no ordinance regulating the construction of wind-powered generators.?That means generators could be constructed in commercial, residential areas, or even next to schools, without any restrictions.

Howard Person, University of Minnesota Extension educator, confirmed that there is an interest in wind energy within the county. Person said Wednesday that several Pennington County Townships have been contacted by a Florida-based wind power company about the feasibility of constructing wind-powered generators within those townships.

Person said the Florida-based wind power company is already planning to construct test towers in several townships. These test towers will measure wind speed to determine if the construction of permanent wind-powered generators is feasible.

Wind-powered generators vary in height. Small generators can stand as low as eight to 11 feet, while large commercial generators will stand several hundred feet.

Large wind-powered generators are typically constructed in open fields as part of a wind farm. But without any type of ordinance, there would be little stopping the construction of windmills within the county.

Tveitbakk said he’s in favor of a simple ordinance that would enforce setbacks from schools, businesses, residences and other buildings. He feels that an ordinance should also address who is responsible for maintaining windmills.

Commissioner Oliver “Skip” Swanson suggested the creation of a committee to write the ordinance.

Tveitbakk said the ordinance can be as simple or complex as the county chooses. He had copies of several sample ordinances ranging from nine to 52 pages in length.

Chairman Bob Carlson commented that he saw a single wind-powered generator in the St. Michael-Albertville area recently.

Tveitbakk replied that the stand-alone wind-powered generator was likely constructed in the absence of an ordinance.

The consensus among commissioners is that the county would not have a problem with farmers and other rural residents installing small wind-powered generators on their own property.

Commissioner Charles Naplin suggested the possibility of creating a county-wide zoning ordinance. The large ordinance would have sperate chapters addressing topics like feedlots and wind energy.

Tveitbakk, County Attorney Alan Rogalla, County Extension Educator Howard Person, and County Engineer Mike Flaagan were named to the committee.

Written by Scott DCamp

Thief River Falls Times

18 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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