The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected an attempt by Goodhue County to impose stricter setback rules on a proposed wind-energy farm, leaving decisions on locating the giant wind turbines in the hands of the state Public Utilities Commission.
The decision, handed down Monday, June 25, removed a potentially crippling hurdle for the AWA Goodhue Wind Project, which has been battling vocal opposition from some county residents.
However, the project is stalled due to other regulatory problems.
The court upheld the state-issued site permit for the 78-megawatt Goodhue Wind Project, which proposes to build 50 turbines in rural Goodhue County.
Goodhue County commissioners, responding to residents who objected to turbines near their land, adopted an ordinance that required the turbines be set back at least 10 rotor diameters, or 2,710 feet, from each resident who was not part of the project.
The Goodhue County ordinance would have prohibited the construction of all 50 turbines, the court said in its ruling.
The PUC in August granted a site permit to the project, imposing a six-rotor diameter setback or 1,626 feet.
The court ruling said “substantial evidence” supported the PUC and those facts gave the court good cause to disregard the county ordinance.
Despite the support from the courts, though, the Goodhue Wind Project is at a standstill.
The PUC in February rejected a plan by the company, AWA Goodhue Wind LLC, to monitor and protect eagles and
bats around the proposed 32,700-acre site.
Bald eagles live in the area and spinning wind turbine blades would pose a threat to the birds and their habitat. The developers were seeking a permit from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to be exempt from killing or injuring the birds.
The project needs an approved bird and bat protection plan to get the federal permit to take eagles. Construction on the project had been scheduled for this summer.
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