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Orono neighbors spar in court over home-made wind turbine

There’s a big battle brewing near Lake Minnetonka, and it involves a home-made wind turbine used as an alternative energy source in one yard. Now, the city of Orono says it has to go or the owner is heading to jail.

The fight may be less about green energy and more about bad energy between neighbors. No fewer than a dozen lawsuits have been filed, and on Wednesday, a judge decided he may hold the homeowner who built the wind turbine in contempt. Meanwhile, Jay Nygard contends he is fighting for his rights.

It’s clear that Nygard is on a crusade. He refuses to take down the 30-foot wind turbine in his back yard even though the city of Orono has sued him over a zoning violation. A judge has already ordered him to take it down because it was too close to property lines and the correct permits hadn’t been pulled.

Neighbors have sued him too, claiming the wind turbine is a nuisance. They’ve complained both about the noise and the strobe effect of the sun hitting the blades – but Nygard says they contribute noise of their own.

“The neighbors have the worst barking dogs you’ve ever heard,” he said.

Yet, neighbors say they’re not just sick of him – they’re scared. That’s because any time they speak out against him at a City Council meeting, he sues them for defamation. The attorney representing one neighbor admitted to Fox 9 News that he called Nygard a bully in front of a jury.

Nygard does have a financial stake at play. His company, Go Green Energy, sells the turbines. Now, he says he hopes to prevent prospective clients from enduring what he has.

“It’s all about precedent – making sure municipalities know you can have them,” he said.

So far, however, his turbines are generating more controversy than energy. The 30-foot turbine and the three smaller ones haven’t taken him off the grid yet. On Wednesday, a judge will determine whether Nygard’s fight is enough to put him behind bars, but he says he’s not afraid.

“I’m ready to go to jail for everyone’s right,” he vowed. “If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do.”

Since the dispute began more than 3 years ago, Orono has passed an ordinance banning any kind of wind turbine. Nygard contends that violates a state law.