WINONA – The wind turbine project north of Lewiston got a small tweak on Tuesday, allowing it to move ahead with groundbreaking, possibly this fall.
The Winona County Board unanimously approved a small change to the zoning permit for Gundersen Lutheran Wind, which is building the two turbines. Gundersen Lutheran is a hospital in La Crosse, Wis., said Eric Johnson, zoning administrator.
The biggest change is the project is going from three turbines, each 402 feet tall when a blade is straight up, to two with a top height of 420 feet, he said. The total output will be about the same, a bit under 5 megawatts. Also, the turbines will be built in the United States, while he believes the former plan had foreign-made turbines.
With the approval, the project can proceed in hopes of getting footings poured before the ground freezes, he said.
The general reaction from local people was approval, though some objected because of noise, flying debris and a fear local emergency responders couldn’t handle a fire or accident in one of the tall turbines, he said.
The medical center is building them as a step toward energy independence. The site was chosen because it has steady wind and is relatively close to La Crosse. Turbines will generate 8 percent to 10 percent of the center’s power. Gundersen wants to create enough renewable energy sources to run its buildings by 2014. It pays about $5 million a year for electricity.
Other projects are solar panels and using waste methane from a local brewery to create electricity.
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