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Wind ordinance moves on to County Board

Held up for months in committee meetings, an update to the county’s wind development ordinance is on its way to the Goodhue County Board.

The new ordinance, which would impose rigid health and safety standards on “commercial” wind projects, cleared the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission Tuesday night in an 8-1 vote. Commission member Howard Stenerson was the lone dissenter.

“I think we made some pretty significant changes,” said commission member and county Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel.

The full board will take it up the ordinance for the first time at their regular meeting Oct. 5.

While the updated language would apply largely to wind projects between 1 and 5 megawatts, opposition and support has largely centered on the proposed 78-megawatt Goodhue Wind project.

The state has permitting authority over that project and all wind projects over 5 megawatts, but the Public Utilities Commission has suggested that it would consider county requirements in its decision, expected late next month.

Goodhue Wind officials say the proposed ordinance goes too far and would effectively kill their project if fully applied, while members of the anti-wind group Goodhue Wind truth living in its proposed footprint say it doesn’t go far enough.

“I was going to predict you guys would go with the wind developer’s handbook. That turned out to be prophetic,” wind opponent Paul Reese told the committee members after their vote.

Opponents of the project have called for large universal setbacks for non-participating homeowners, a provision that was taken out of the commission’s final version.

The result of more than three months of committee meetings, the commission’s proposed wind ordinance would distinguish between “commercial” and “non-commercial” wind farm projects.

Projects above 1 megawatt would need to meet a series of criteria to be approved. Among those would include models to ensure that turbines create no shadow flicker on non-participating homeowners, universal base setbacks of 1,000 feet from homes, and pre-construction “stray voltage” testing, which project engineers have contended is unnecessary but opponents say is needed to protect livestock on area farms.

All projects producing under 1 megawatt of power would be labeled non-commercial and be subject to less onerous requirements.

Senior wind developer Chuck Burdick of National Wind, the parent company of Goodhue Wind, argued that the proposed ordinance “targets wind energy unfairly.”

“Clearly it’s a difficult task to put all this language together,” he said. “But a lot of these requirements are impractical.”