ST. PAUL – A proposed wind-energy farm north of Paynesville cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when the state Public Utilities Commission approved a certificate of need and a site permit for the project.
Paynesville Wind, a subsidiary of Geronimo Wind Energy, is proposing to erect up to 60 turbines, each roughly 400 feet high including the rotor blade. The 95-megawatt wind farm would cover about 15,000 acres in Zion, Paynesville, Spring Hill and Lake Henry townships.
The company has signed agreements with property owners for more than 12,000 acres in the project area.
The PUC’s vote will allow the company to finish final engineering and negotiation on a purchase agreement for electricity produced by the wind turbines, said Charlie Daum, Geronimo spokesman. Construction is expected to begin sometime next year.
“We’re excited to keep moving forward,” Daum said.
The proposal has strong backing from many of the property owners who have signed up their land to be part of the project area and perhaps to have a turbine. They say the wind farm will be a boost for the local economy and provide renewable energy.
Other residents who aren’t participating have voiced concerns about noise, shadow flicker and impact on property values and wildlife.
The exact locations of the wind turbines have not been determined. They will depend on which turbine model is chosen, Daum said.
The project will need to meet Stearns County’s wind farm regulations, which in some cases are stricter than the state rules.
In Minnesota, large wind turbines must be at least 500 feet from homes plus an additional distance to meet noise limits. Stearns County requires a 750-foot setback from residences.
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