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Washington County Board rejects — for now — wind turbine proposal

Washington County Board members this week rejected a Denmark Township couples’ request to double the height of a wind turbine allowed under county code – but the wind might soon be at their back: county officials will now re-examine changes to the rules that could allow taller turbines in some rural areas.

Commissioners on Tuesday expressed support for a proposal from Denmark Township farmers David and Cynthia Krueger despite voting down the proposed change, sending the issue back to the county’s advisory planning commission in hopes of drawing up broader changes to the code that would establish property size requirements for larger wind energy conversion systems.

“We should take a look at the ordinance … and allow property owners to harvest the wind, as they say,” said commissioner Dennis Hegberg.

Other commissioners agreed, with board member Bill Pulkrabek saying he supported the Krugers’ proposal but said he was “worried about the precedent this will set.”

Washington County’s development code already permits turbines of up to 100 feet in height in certain agricultural districts. But, the Kruegers want to erect a 189-foot high turbine on their 233-acre farm.

That proposed turbine is so far beyond the current allowable height, senior county planner Dennis O’Donnell said, that it doesn’t make sense to grant a simple variance in this case. Instead, Washington County’s entire wind turbine code would need to be re-written, he said.

The couple and representatives from Renewable Energy SD, the company working with the Kruegers to construct the turbine, told county board members a wind turbine constructed to current limits would not supply enough energy for the farm. Cynthia Krueger told board members they hope to sell back excess power generated to Xcel Energy.

“We produce beef, lamb, corn [and] soybeans,” said Cynthia Krueger. “And we’d like to produce wind.”