The debate over wind energy that swept over Goodhue County in 2010 may well blow over into the next year.
Proposals to build large wind farms in the county’s rural areas have prompted heated arguments among rural residents. Some fear the large turbines will be unsightly and possibly dangerous. Farmers and wind companies who stand to gain from the developments.
On one side are people like Belle Creek Township residents Tom and Mary Gale, who moved to the county to find their dream home. The prospect of large wind farms threatens to spoil their ideal home.
“It’s going to take away every reason we came out here,” Mary Gale told the R-E earlier this year.
On the other side of the issue are farmers that see wind development as simply another harvest.
“Some may not realize that this is agricultural production zoned land,” Kenyon-area landowner and wind farm investor Gary Luebke told the R-E. “Having wind turbines comes with that.”
While there are several proposals to build wind farms in Goodhue County, the most serious and hotly contested is the Goodhue Wind project. Proposed by National wind, the development would erect a 78-megawatt wind farm near Goodhue and Zumbrota.
Currently, project is seeking permit approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
National Wind had hoped the PUC would’ve approved the project this year. But the PUC decided it need more time – up to six months – to consider a Goodhue County ordinance that sets down restrictive rules for wind developments.
The decision highlights the lack of clear regulatory authority over wind farms.
While the PUC has ultimate authority to permit or deny wind farms in the state, the agency has said it would consider local ordinances.
Wind opponents fought hard and pestered Goodhue County commissioners to pass strict regulations on wind farms throughout 2010. They succeeded in their campaign: Goodhue County Board passed tough regulations in October just weeks before the PUC was set to decide on Goodhue Wind’s permit.
Some county officials believed the PUC would quickly and simply brush aside the local ordinance. That was not the case, and the agency directed an administrative law judge to review the validity of the county’s ordinance.
Meanwhile, delay has put National Wind in a bind. Company officials say this has likely killed their ability to garner significant amounts of stimulus funding.
Whether that’s a death-knell for the project is unclear.
Regardless, other wind developments may be proposed and Goodhue County’s debate over wind energy appears likely to continue well into the next year.
Eric Ludy and Jen Cullen contributed to this story.
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