The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved an amended site permit Monday for the long-delayed Pleasant Valley wind project in Mower and Dodge counties. The new permit will allow the turbines to rise a little higher on the horizon.
Pleasant Valley filed its request with the state on Nov. 25, 2013, shortly after reaching a power purchase agreement with Xcel Energy that pushed the project forward after nearly four years of permitting uncertainty. The PUC approved the initial site permit for a 301 megawatt project in 2010, but the amended request reduces the nameplate capacity to 200 megawatts.
Additionally, the PUC’s recent decision allows Pleasant Valley to switch from a combination of 1.5 MW and 2.3 MW General Electric turbines to a uniform layout of 2.0 MW Vestas, which are 328 feet tall with a rotor diameter of 328 feet. The GE turbines had the same rotor diameter, but the towers stood 262 feet tall.
Eighty-eight of the turbines are sited in Mower County, while 12 are in Dodge County.
The request did receive some criticism from local officials. Dodge County filed comments that questioned the merits of Pleasant Valley’s petition. Specifically, it questioned turbines being sited in Dodge County under the new layout and wondered if the PUC had considered the potential impact of those turbines.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources raised similar concerns. It asked that the updated project footprint be reviewed for potential impacts on threatened or endangered species, noting the last review was done in 2009. The PUC approved that request on Monday, but DNR’s Jamie Schrenzel says that Pleasant Valley was already working with the Department of Commerce to develop an Avian and Bat Protection Plan/Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy.
“Pleasant Valley Wind is currently in the process of evaluating the revised turbine locations for potential impacts to cultural resources, wetlands, and other biological and natural resources,” Pleasant Valley wrote in its most recent PUC filing. “Pleasant Valley Wind is confident the results of these studies will continue to demonstrate the suitability of this site for the Project.”
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