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Permit process moves forward for new Nobles County wind farm

WORTHINGTON – Community Wind South took the next step toward building its 30-megawatt wind farm in Nobles County Wednesday night, when permit requests for a switching station and laydown yard in Summit Lake Township were approved by the Nobles County Planning and Zoning Commission.

While the requests have yet to be presented to the county board for final approval, there were no concerns brought forth during Wednesday’s public hearing on the two proposed sites. Commissioners will hear the request at the April 17 board meeting, slated for 9 a.m. in the Nobles County Government Center.

A groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the Community Wind South project is planned sometime in May. The 15, 2-megawatt towers will be not only the tallest wind turbines in Nobles County, but the tallest turbines in the state, extending 328 feet to the hub, and 430 feet to the outermost tip of the blade.

On Wednesday, planning and zoning board members approved a conditional use permit for up to 10 acres to be used as a laydown yard in the southeast quarter of Section 23, Summit Lake Township. This is the same site used during construction of the Nobles Wind Farm in 2010.

Jed Van Sciver, construction manager for juwi Wind, said the yard will contain three construction trailers and store some cable reels during the construction process. Once the 15 wind turbines are erected – a process hoped to be completed in October, the site will be reclaimed and restored to agricultural land. Greg Ponto owns the land where the laydown yard will be located.

The only condition placed on the permit is that any temporary driveways created for the purpose of accessing the laydown yard are removed and the ditch restored upon completion of the project.

The switching station will be located on property owned by Mike Metz in the southeast quarter of Section 18, Summit Lake Township. The site will include a small control building, control switches and metering technology within a 90- by 100-foot fence line, and will be used to collect power from the grid. The site meets all county and township road setback requirements.

Van Sciver said the station will not make any noise, and the yard will feature a gravel base with a copper grid below the surface.

The one condition planning and zoning board members placed on the permit is that a preconstruction meeting be conducted onsite with environmental services prior to start-up.

Planning and zoning board member and Nobles County Commissioner Diane Thier abstained from both votes Wednesday night because her involvement in Community Wind South. She serves as a board member, along with fellow Nobles County Commissioner David Benson.

Benson, also at Wednesday night’s meeting, said “this project has been a long time coming.” He and eight other partners began working on the community wind concept in 2000 as a way for local individuals to invest in the wind energy industry. Benson serves as chair of the Community Wind South board of directors. Their development manager-partner is Minwind Energy LLC, of Luverne.

“We’re very happy with juwi and their values,” Benson said.

Founded in 1996 by Fred Jung and Matthias Willenbacher in Germany, juwi Wind, LLC is headquartered in Boulder, Colo. In addition to wind energy, it also specializes in solar and bioenergy.

Aaron Peterson, community relations director with juwi’s Minnesota office, said the company began working with Community Wind South in May 2011.

“We feel very privileged to be at this phase and this point in Nobles County,” he said.

A native of Madison, Peterson spoke of how he’s “always looked south” to the leadership in Nobles County pertaining to wind development.

“We feel very fortunate to be in a county, for lack of better terminology, that knows how to do this,” he added.