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Wind farms wait for approval; State authorities set to vote Thursday on future

ST. PAUL – State authorities will decide Thursday whether to give a green light to two proposed wind farms in western Stearns County.

The Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote on a certificate of need and site permit for Black Oak and Getty wind farms just southwest of Sauk Centre.

Black Oak Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Edina-based Geronimo Wind Energy, is proposing to build a 42-megawatt Black Oak Wind Farm adjacent to the 40-megawatt Getty Wind, a community-based wind project. The two companies are working together on financing and have applied jointly for permits.

Geronimo’s Justin Pickar declined to comment until after Thursday’s meeting.

According to PUC documents, the companies have been negotiating for a contract to purchase power generated by the wind farms. Construction is expected to begin next year and be completed by Dec. 31, 2013.

The industry has been suffering from the uncertainty over whether a wind production tax credit that expires Dec. 31 will be renewed by Congress. Several turbine manufacturers have laid off employees as projects have stalled.

Geronimo also is proposing to build a 95-megawatt wind farm near Paynesville. The company recently asked for more time – until 2014 – to find a utility to purchase its power.

The Black Oak and Getty farms would cover about 22 square miles of mostly agricultural land. They would have somewhere between 27 and 52 turbines, each roughly 400 feet tall.

Some area residents have cited concerns about shadow flicker, noise and potential bird deaths from the turbines.

An environmental report completed last May did not identify any unique or significant environmental impacts from the proposed farms. The companies have completed a bat and bird protection plan.

The commission meets at 9:30 a.m. in St. Paul. The meetings are webcast live at www.puc.state.mn.us.