May 3, 2017

Citizens weigh in on wind farm project

Dan Conradt | ABC 6 News | May 02, 2017 |

It was a contentious debate Tuesday morning during a meeting of the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners.

“It’s not just dollars, people do have concerns. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water,” said Ryan Nolander, executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.

It’s called the Freeborn Wind Energy Project, and it’s drawing both support and opposition.

“My goals are to create jobs and to create new tax base and this project and projects like this do that,” said Ryan Nolander.

“The concerns arise from the turbines being so close to homes and being so large,” said Dorenne Hansen, who lives in Freeborn County’s Shell Rock Township.

“We are concerned that current state setbacks from homes may not be a safe distance,” said one Freeborn County residet, one of about one hundred people in the audience for the board meeting.

“We are exceeding the minimum, but it’s a tight layout, there’s not much flexibility to move things around, so any increase in setback will remove turbines from the project,” said Dan Litchfield, of developer Invenergy.

The project would build 100 wind turbines. Up to half would be in rural Freeborn County, and the others in north Iowa.

“My first concern with adding another wind farm to Freeborn County is the health and well-being of my neighbors who live within the footprint,” a woman told board members.

“Can’t sleep, headaches, you name it. my kid’s got migraines,” another man explained.

“If we put roadblocks in front of this project we’re risking a lot of money,” said one man who was in support of the project.

“The Bent Tree Project, those wind towers annually are producing approximately $5,800 per tower in property taxes,” added ALEDA’s Ryan Nolander.

Freeborn County commissioners discussed a proposal to undertake a local study the impact of the wind farm. In the end, it failed on a 2-2 vote.

“In this case the chair, knew he had a conflict of interest so he appropriately abstained from the vote under the circumstances,” said Freeborn County Attorney David Walker.

Because of the project’s size, approval or denial rests with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

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