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Chippewa County wind farm likely to go up in early 2018

MONTEVIDEO – Equipment began arriving this week for the construction of an 18-turbine wind farm in Chippewa County, but work is not likely to get underway until spring.

Company officials with Palmer’s Creek Wind Farm outlined plans for the 44.6-megawatt wind farm to Administrative Law Judge Barbara Case at a public hearing Monday evening in Montevideo. The Public Utilities Commission has developed a draft permit for the project, and is expected to act on the permit by year’s end.

Judge Case said public comments on the project will be accepted by the PUC through Sept. 21. It’s an opportunity to point out what could be improved, or issues regulators might not be aware of, she said.

Company officials had hoped to begin work this fall, but the permit process is not complete. They are hopeful of receiving a permit in late November or December.

State law does not allow construction to occur until the permit is issued. Consequently, the company must stockpile as they arrive its turbines, blades and generators at locations other than where they will be eventually erected, according to Mike Rutledge with Fagen Engineering of Granite Falls, which is developing the project.

Representatives of the PUC and Minnesota Department of Commerce indicated that a permit for the project is likely to be approved. No “show stopper” issues have been raised for the project, according to Richard Davis, environmental review manager for the Department of Commerce.

Palmer’s Creek Wind Farm plans to erect the 18 turbines over a 6,150-acre area north of Granite Falls in an area parallel to the Minnesota River Valley and Chippewa County Road 5. The project will include two 2.3-megawatt turbines on 262.4-foot towers and 16 2.5-megawatt turbines on 295.2-foot towers.

The towers will be placed on agricultural land and connected via an underground line to a company substation. It will in turn provide its power to a large, Western Area Power Administration substation that is connected to the region’s electrical grid.

Four landowners and a representative of a fifth in the project area attended the hearing Monday. Discussion focused mainly on the logistics of the upcoming work.

Todd Hays, a civil engineer with Fagen Engineering, said the underground line connecting the towers will be laid with a company at the ready to repair any tile lines that might be damaged during the trenching phase of the work.

The company has conducted extensive studies of the project’s possible impact on avian and bat populations in the area. The permit for the project will contain restrictions on how the turbines are operated to reduce harm to birds and bats, according to information presented at the hearing.

One landowner in the project area, Keith Beito, told Judge Case he favors the project. It will provide an estimated five to eight permanent jobs, 150 construction jobs, and payments for wind rights to landowners. It is also projected to pay $134,000 in taxes annually to local government units.

Another landowner in the project area said he is opposed to the project. Scott Wilson said he opposes the project because of its proximity to his home and said that he does not support big, industrial projects. Wilson said he supports smaller-scale, distributive energy projects.