LETCHER – Opposition to the construction of turbines in rural Letcher hasn’t knocked the wind out of the project’s sails.
Corey Juhl, vice president of project development for Juhl Energy, said his Minnesota-based company is still considering a plan to bring 9 to 11 wind turbines to the rural Sanborn County town. With the project still in a pre-development phase, the company has yet to file a permit application with the county. But it hasn’t slowed the flow of opposition against the potential project.
Despite the swell of dissatisfaction with the proposal to build turbines in rural Letcher mentioning the usual concerns against wind projects, including noise pollution, potentially diminished property values, lights attached to the towers and the overall sight of the turbines that would stand more than 400-feet tall, Juhl has heard some words of support as well.
“I would say we’ve heard more support than negative at this time,” Juhl said in a phone interview with The Daily Republic.
And Juhl’s not alone in hearing from supporters.
Sanborn County Commissioner Ray Ohlrogge, who has yet to decide whether he would support the project, said he’s also hearing from both opposition and proponents.
“I think the most attractive thing would be the amount of money that the farmer would get paid every year for a wind tower on their property,” Ohlrogge said Wednesday.
But Ohlrogge, who’s also on the county’s planning and zoning board, said he won’t make his decision until all the facts are on the table.
“I try to take the middle of the road until I can learn everything that I can,” Ohlrogge said.
Juhl said a project in Letcher would likely be similar to a proposal denied earlier this year by Davison County in a 4-1 vote.
The Davison County proposal would have cost $40 million and led to the construction of 446-foot turbines about 5 to 10 miles west of Mitchell. That project was estimated to generate approximately $66,000 in annual production taxes to be applied to two school districts, Davison County and Beulah Township, but the commission sided with many of the project’s neighbors who shared the same concerns as those in Letcher.
Ohlrogge said everyone in the area has reacted to the prospective proposal in Letcher differently, but he isn’t put off by the Davison County Commission’s denial of a similar project a few miles south of Letcher. When considering the project, if Juhl Energy files for a permit, Ohlrogge said there will be a lot of factors on the table.
“The wind energy is going to have to replace some of the coal energy and atomic energy somewhere along the line,” he said. “That’s got to be on your mind, because (wind) is a renewable energy.”
No timetable for the permit application was available, but Juhl said he’s committed to responsible business practices that remain within the industry norms for wind farms.
“We’re also just trying to do the right thing, we’re not trying to take advantage of any opportunistic setback laws,” Juhl said. “We’re doing all we can to hear the concerns, but at the same time, if it’s about building things that people could see from five miles away, there would not be much built in this country.
“We can’t help that someone doesn’t like it from miles and miles away, that’s something we cannot help and cannot fix.”
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