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Wind turbine case picks up in district court

A four year long dispute between a man who wants to have a wind turbine on his property in Orono, some of his neighbors and the city of Orono may be coming to a final conclusion within 90 days.

Jay Nygard wants to have his four small wind turbines provide his home with energy. Some of his neighbors and the city don’t and now the decision rests in the hands of Hennepin County District Court Judge, Philip D. Bush.

Nygard and his attorney Erick Kaardal, are citing a 1995 Minnesota state law which allows for Small Wind Energy Conversion Systems (SECS) that permit a single family property owner to install and operate a wind turbine system as long as it does not produce more than 5,000 kilowatts of power.

“I produce less than 5,000 kilowatts,” Nygard said. He has one turbine that stands 30 feet tall, along with three smaller ones.

Nygard owns a company, Go Green Energy, which sells the turbines.

The city, in its brief filed with the court, argued that nothing in the state law precludes a local municipality from “establishing requirements for the siting and construction of SWECS.”

They have also argued that the turbines were put up without proper permits and are a safety threat.

Nygard’s strong stance and opinion on the issue has resulted in several lawsuits and a threat of him going to jail for contempt.

Kaardal has gotten the contempt charge staid by the state court of appeals and believes Judge Bush’s ruling could have far reaching ramifications for all municipalities and the citizens of the state.

“If they rule in our favor, then it will establish that state law prevails over local ordinance and will have a big impact on green energy initiatives by citizens throughout the state,” Kaardal said.

Nygard has incurred the wrath of several of his neighbors, who say the turbines are noisy and on sunny days can cause a “strobe-like effect” which sunshine reflects of the whirling turbine blades.

They also say it is to close to their property lines.

Nygard also says the ordinance prohibiting turbines in Orono was passed in 2013 well after both the 1995 Minnesota SWECS law going on the books and after he has erected his turbine.

The city of Orono would not comment on the matter because it is still in litigation, although they did provide a copy of the summary they filed with the court.

It is expected that the ruling by Judge Bush promised by late October, may well bring a closing to a battle that started way back in 2010.