ST. PAUL – Wind farm supporters and opponents packed a House committee room on Wednesday facing off on whether stricter setbacks for large-scale wind projects are needed to protect landowners.
The debate centered on a bill introduced by Red Wing Republican Rep. Tim Kelly. The measure would require that in areas that have at least 3 1/2 homes per square mile, wind turbines could not be built within a half-mile of the property line of a landowner who was not participating in the wind project. Kelly said research shows that at this population density opposition to wind farm projects increases dramatically. He said he believes that is part of the problem in Goodhue County where a large number of citizens are protesting proposed wind projects.
“As we move further and further down this road, we are starting to encroach on areas that may just not be the right place (for wind turbines),” Kelly said.
But representatives from wind farm companies argue that this bill would prevent several projects in the state from moving ahead and put a chilling effect on wind energy in the state. Blake Nixon, president of Geronimo Wind Energy, told members of the House Agriculture and Rural Policy Committee that wind development provides good paying jobs in rural areas.
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