MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The Hennepin County board has vetoed a proposed 1.6-megawatt wind turbine at its Public Works Facility in Medina, halting an effort to incorporate the turbine into the county’s renewable-energy offerings.
Voting 5-0 against the project, board members expressed concerns about taking up too much staff time and cut off Hennepin County’s intention to apply for a construction permit by Nov. 18.
Stenglein was referring to Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, an outspoken supporter of investing in renewable energy, including wind and solar renewable energy. McLaughlin wasn’t at Tuesday’s board meeting because he was in Oregon attending a “Rail~Volution” mass transit convention in Portland, Ore.
Board approval would have allowed the county to enter negotiations with Olson Energy Corp., headed by Orono tax attorney Bob Olson – a former DFL candidate for U.S. Senate who used a wind turbine silhouette in campaign materials – to build, own and operate the turbine.
Stenglein pointed to a lack of experience by Olson Energy, which is not widely known in a state that ranks seventh in wind energy production, as part of the reason for not pursuing the turbine project.
“If you want to see a working turbine, just go up to Maple Grove,” Stenglein said, referring to the 160-foot-tall, 200-kilowatt wind turbine in front of Great River Energy’s headquarters.
That turbine has just one-eighth the generation capacity of the 1.6-megawatt Vestas wind turbine Hennepin County wanted to install on the grounds of its Medina Public Works Facility.
The 160-foot turbine on the Great River Energy campus is less than half of the proposed 407-foot turbine that Hennepin County hoped to build. The turbine was supposed to complement the solar array at the county’s two-story Medina facility.
Hennepin officials had hoped that the turbine, which they have been trying to build since 2005, would pare the county’s $7 million annual electricity bill while cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.
Carl Michaud, director of environmental services for the county, said Thursday that he urged the board to continue with the project, and that his staff has spent ample time on the wind turbine project.
However, Mike Opat, chairman of the Hennepin County board, said the department that Michaud heads is needed for other projects. Among them is development of the Bottineau Transitway, an LRT line that bisects the districts represented by Opat and Stenglein.
All of the LRT lines being considered or constructed – Central Corridor, Southwest Corridor and the Bottineau Transitway – place heavy demands on the county’s Environmental Services department.
“Building these rail lines is hard enough,” said Stenglein, who joined Opat, Jan Callison, Jeff Johnson and Gail Dorfman in voting the wind turbine deal down.
The turbine project was approved in November 2008 by the Medina City Council despite the objections of Medina residents.
That vote revised Medina’s Planned Unit Development at the site so the county could file the construction permit by Nov. 18.
Like the county’s garbage burner, which sells energy generated from burning 1,000 tons of trash a day into electricity, Hennepin County envisioned an arrangement to erect a single turbine and, eventually, sell electricity produced to a utility or to help power the maintenance facility when it is windy.
But, Stenglein contended, “Why even go down the road? We think these things through before we jump into them.”
McLaughlin could not be reached for comment.
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