During their regular monthly meeting held Tuesday, August 3, the Wadena County Board tabled action on an application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to allow a 262-foot high wind tower to be erected in Aldrich Township. After discussion and testimony, the Board voted to table a decision on the request until their August 19 meeting. They will request an opinion on the matter from the county attorney in the interim.
The County Planning Commission had recommended approving the application.
Russell and Susan Nystrom requested the CUP to build a 1.65 megawatt wind energy conversion system and erect a 262-foot tower on their property in Aldrich Township. They do not live on the property, but Nystrom explained that they plan to build a home there in a few years. He added that he feels the project would be good for the community, and that they would buy materials locally, such as the 400 yards of concrete needed for the foundation.
According to Bob Christensen, Operations Manager for Private Energy Systems, the contractor for the project, the tower would generate enough electricity to power 350 homes. A contract to sell the electricity generated by the wind tower has not yet been obtained, but he indicated that such a contract would likely be with Todd-Wadena Electric, Great River Energy or Minnesota Power.
Christensen explained that obtaining a CUP was just the first step in developing the site in order to determine whether the project is feasible or not, and that they would be back before the Board again before construction started. He pointed out that the project would meet all requirements and that their goal is to exceed all requirements. The nearest residence would be 1,200 feet away from the tower location. A wind tower of this size would have a 25-year life.
Neighboring property owners appeared at the meeting to comment on the proposal. Chuck Davis told the Board that the permit should be denied because as yet there is no purchase agreement for the electricity that would be generated, and suggested that the County ask for a bond of $250,000 for potential removal costs for the wind turbine.
Lorinda Davis asked that the County learn more about the broader health and ecological implications of a wind turbine of this size before they make a decision.
Keith Radniecki said that he and his wife had bought their property for privacy and quiet, and they had checked into other towers of this size and found that they were noisy, generating a steady hum.
Commissioner Ralph Miller stated that he lives about a mile away from the site, and that there was “nothing that large with an arcing blade anywhere in the county.” He said he felt the project deserves more scrutiny. Miller said “I want facts; we don’t have enough to authorize the permit.”
Commissioner Dave Schermerhorn agreed with Miller, stating, “We need to be careful to keep facts as facts and opinion as opinion.”
Commissioner Rodney Bounds opined, “The Planning and Zoning Commission has never addressed these big units, only 60 and 100 foot.” He suggested that a policy regarding this size wind turbine be developed.
Board Chair Bill Stearns noted that the County Board has 60 days to act on the permit application, which was dated June 29, 2010. The Board voted unanimously to table the application until August 19.