Minneapolis – Despite being rebuffed twice by state regulators, National Wind is not ready to withdraw from its proposed wind project in Goodhue County.
A frustrated executive said the wind development firm will try to get a speedy resolution within 60 days so National Wind can begin its 78-megawatt project next year.
“We are looking for every way possible to move forward,” said Chuck Burdick, senior wind farm developer at Minneapolis-based National Wind, which is developing the project on behalf of AWA Goodhue LLC. “We also are trying to protect the significant investment that has already been put in the project. Between $5 million and $6 million has already been invested.”
Burdick said he is frustrated the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is not holding other wind projects in the state to the same “unreasonable standard” that AWA Goodhue faces.
The project has run into stiff local opposition from residents worried about the negative health effects of living too close to wind turbines. Goodhue County adopted a strict local ordinance in early October requiring that each of the 50 turbines be at a distance of 10 rotor diameters – in this case, 2,700 feet – from the homes of landowners who have not leased land to the project.
“Last week, the PUC approved two site permits with a 1,000-foot setback,” Burdick said. “There’s a level of absurdity at this point.”
That 10-rotor setback would kill the project, lawyers for AWA have told the PUC, appealing to commissioners to ignore the local ordinance and allow construction.
The PUC commissioners referred the case back to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which this summer compiled volumes of information from both sides on the scientific evidence of whether noise and shadow flicker from the rotating turbines have negative health effects.
Once again, the case is pending.
Burdick said company lawyers are trying to get the contested hearing expedited so the matter is resolved in the next 60 days. Burdick said he is open to a compromise with the county and has contacted some commissioners, but the response has not been encouraging.
One of the points of compromise is to relax the 10-rotor requirement in favor of a stronger noise pollution requirement, Burdick said.
In an October meeting, before the ordinance was approved, many residents said the county should adopt a 10-rotor setback because that was the only way to protect them from the effects of large wind turbines.
Many rejected the notion there was a cost-effective way to measure the sound emitted and enforce the noise requirement.
The County Board had considered strengthening the sound requirement to 40 decibels from 50, the state maximum.
But a county resident said that is not acceptable.
“The World Health Organization recommends 35 decibels or less at nighttime,” said Barb Stussy, a Minneola township resident who has opposed the project. “The 40 decibels, as a compromise, does not address the nighttime noise.”
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