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Wind, transmission line slated for discussion

In a year packed full of long, heated debates over the proposed Goodhue Wind project, an upcoming county meeting promises more of the same.

Members of the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission will mull over two proposed wind ordinances at their Sept. 21 meeting, one authored by a Goodhue County subcommittee and the other brought forward by members of the anti-wind group Goodhue Wind Truth.

Meanwhile, Goodhue Wind will propose an electric substation and overhead transmission line for a three-mile stretch along County Road 51 in Vasa Township, a step officials say is necessary to move a 50-turbine, 78 MW project forward.

“I’m guessing it will be a very involved meeting,” said commission member and county Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel.

Both sides of the hotly contested issue agree that the main question of the evening will be whether the commission approves the subcommittee’s wind ordinance proposal, which has drawn the ire of wind developers and the praise of anti-wind groups for its stringent requirements on large-scale wind development.

The ordinance would call for large uniform setbacks from non-participating residences, along with pre-construction tests for stray voltage and limits on noise and shadow flicker, created when turbines spin in front of the sun.

“Some of the things that they’re proposing are really impractical,” said Chuck Burdick, senior wind developer with National Wind, the company that manages Goodhue Wind.

Burdick said that by imposing rigid standards that don’t apply to other industries, the ordinance appears to be designed specifically to hinder the company’s project.

“Our biggest frustration is that they’re inconsistent with everything else,” he said.

Those opposed to the project, meanwhile, have lauded the subcommittee for its work on the proposed ordinance.

Paul Reese, an area farmer running for District 4 county commissioner on an anti-wind platform, said it addresses the health and economic concerns of area residents, who fear the turbines will diminish property values and inhibit sleep through excessive noise.

The question now, said Reese, is whether the commission as a whole will agree.

“Judging the Planning Advisory Commission’s past behavior, they’re probably not going to keep it as it stands,” he said.

In case that happens, Goodhue Wind Truth members have proposed a back-up ordinance to the commission. Should the county subcommittee’s ordinance fail to pass or be significantly altered, members of the group would bring their own ordinance up for a public hearing and eventual vote, according to Reese.

Transmission line proposed

A key sideshow of the meeting will be Goodhue Wind’s applications to build a private transmission line and electric substation in the countryside near Vasa.

Reese said he expects opponents of the wind farm to line up against the proposed line, an important link between wind turbines and the transmission grid.

He argued that proposing the line before the state has weighed in on the project is inappropriate. A decision from the state on the Goodhue Wind project is expected late next month.

“It would be incredibly irresponsible for the county to approve those at this point,” he said.

But National Wind officials argue that they need to seek approval of permits at multiple levels of government at once to move the project forward on schedule; they wish to break ground this year.

Any other controversy with the line, argued Burdick, should be laid to rest by the fact that the majority of landowners along its proposed route support it. Out of the 22 parcels along the route, 21 owners signed on. The lone hold-out is on the opposite side of the road from the proposed line.

“We feel good about the response we got there,” he said.