A controversial wind-energy project in Goodhue County received approval Thursday from state regulators, who ordered the wind turbines be installed farther than originally planned from the homes of project opponents.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved permits for the 78-megawatt Goodhue Wind Project, which was proposed just west of the city of Goodhue.
The project covers 32,700 acres and involves 50 turbines, but only about a third of that acreage would have turbines on it. Some 200 landowners agreed to be paid for the 1.6-megawatt turbines to be erected on their properties.
However, the project has generated heated opposition for nearly two years from residents who don’t have turbines slated for their property. They want the structures placed at least a half-mile away from them, farther than required by state law and other wind projects.
“Our house is in the exact center of the wind project,” said Jean Schulte, who owns 23 acres in Belle Creek Township with her husband, Tom.
Schulte, a registered nurse, told the commission at a public hearing Thursday that she worried about low-pitch vibrations from the turbines.
Opponents’ other worries include flickering shadows from spinning blades and harm to nesting animals.
Landowners who are part of the project scoffed at the complaints.
“It’s not about setbacks or health and safety reasons,” said Dennis Gadient, a dairy farmer who lives in Belle Creek and owns 160 acres in the project
area. He agreed to have more than one turbine on his property. The opponents’ group “bullied its way into this process,” he told the commission.
The commission rejected using an ordinance passed by the Goodhue County Board that would require the turbines to be placed a half-mile from residents who are not part of the project.
The project’s developers, National Wind LLC of Minneapolis, said the requirement would eliminate turbines and put the project into default of its contract to sell electricity to Xcel Energy.
The commission approved the project on the condition that National Wind negotiate with the unhappy neighbors to get an exemption from the half-mile county standard but required turbines to be kept 1,620 feet away.
National Wind senior wind developer Chuck Burdick said the company must evaluate the conditions to determine if they are acceptable.
Goodhue Wind Truth, the opponents’ group, hasn’t decided if it will appeal, said its attorney, Carol Overland.
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