Stearns County residents should attend an important public hearing Tuesday to express their questions and concerns about large-scale wind turbine projects, the tax dollars that subsidize them, and their possible detrimental impacts on people, animals and the environment.
The meeting is at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the county board room, Stearns County Administration Center, 705 Courthouse Square, St. Cloud.
At the least, the county should require Paynesville Wind, a subsidiary of Geronimo Wind Energy, to implement at least a 2,800-foot setback for its 60-turbine, 95-megawatt wind farm covering about 15,000 acres in Zion, Paynesville, Spring Hill and Lake Henry townships.
Why? We don’t know who will be affected nor how projects like this will affect people in the long term.
Also, as a taxpayer, when will enough be enough?
Taxes on our property are going up; taxes for public education are going up, and let’s not forget about our tax dollars going to finance Paynesville Wind. Wind energy is heavily subsidized by the government. Worse yet, studies from Texas to Denmark point to wind energy being a very small contributor to our electrical supply.
We have called, e-mailed and sent letters to state Sen. Michelle Fischbach and no reply. Minnesota’s attorney general has been contacted about wind energy subsidies; she tells us to go to our Legislature. Rep. Paul Anderson has been contacted; he said to go to the federal government. He has also heard from farmers who want the project – farmers who have agreed to sign over their wind rights for money and who agree to confidentiality clauses.
Stearns County commissioners reactivated the county’s year-old Large Wind Energy Conversion Systems committee to see if the county’s existing ordinance needed to be altered. This was another joke because two of the 12 people who sat on this committee were wind developers.
Why would these people, who clearly have a vested interest, be allowed to sit on a committee that is possibly revising ordinances and recommending those to the county board?
I have served on this committee and have seen firsthand how most times information not favorable to wind energy got discredited by the committee members who wanted to see the project move forward.
Yes, the two developers were not allowed to vote on issues, but they had a lot of influence on what was brought forward. Seldom did we discuss in depth important issues such as turbine noise on inner ear function on humans as well as animals.
Ultimately, a lot of money has been spent on this committee, and it should have been kept in the taxpayers’ pocket! The committee seemed to be reactivated just to pacify the people.
The biggest immediate concern with the Paynesville project is the inadequate setbacks as they relate to turbine noise.
Even the Minnesota Department of Health’s own research notes that noise from turbines can be concerning within a half-mile, or about 2,600 feet.
Similarly, documentation from the Minnesota Department of Commerce states typically 750 to 1,500 feet is required to meet noise standards depending on turbine model, number of turbines, layout and site specific conditions.
Why then is the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission recommending that setbacks be increased only to 1,000 feet from the current 500-foot minimum? Better yet, why are the Stearns County commissioners considering giving only a 1,000-foot setback to nonparticipants in the Paynesville project?
HDR, a firm that analyzes noise for municipalities and private companies, uses modeling maps that show noise traveling more than 1,700 feet.
They use averages for modeling noise, not worse-case scenario. The noise can be louder, travel farther and be more than 50 dB(A) – which is the state’s limit at nighttime.
Finally, if the taxpayers think all these issues will go away, they won’t until we unite and put a stop to foolish government spending. It is time to say “enough” to large wind companies taking our tax dollars and giving us so little in return, not to mention the unknown health impacts for people within earshot of the turbines themselves.
This is the opinion of Bob and Shirley Solsrud, Paynesville-area residents impacted by the Paynesville Wind project.