JO DAVIESS TOWNSHIP – The Big Blue Wind Farm in Faribault County is facing possible site permit violations, which could lead to suspension or revocation of the wind farm’s permit.
The 36-megawatt wind farm consists of 18 wind turbines and is located in Jo Daviess Township. It is owned by Fagen, Inc., located in Granite Falls.
Around ten complaints have been filed to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by residents in the past year, starting on May 7. Seven of the complaints concerned the alleged noise that the wind turbines give off.
Early noise complaints cited a “clicking” noise, as well as a “jet noise” coming from the turbines. In one letter, dated Dec. 4, the jet noise is described as “a non-stop concussion that never stops.” In some complaints, the resident called for Big Blue’s site permit to be suspended or revoked.
“This past week, December 2nd and December 3rd, 2017 the jet noise from the turbines were so loud we could not endure it any longer so we had to leave our farm to get away from the noise,” read one of the complaints.
On Jan. 10, 2018, a letter was sent from the PUC to Big Blue Wind Farm, LLC and Fagen in response to allegations of site permit violations.
According to the letter, Big Blue did not file noise monitoring results of the wind farm to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (DOC EERA) in a timely manner as required by the permit.
The DOC EERA also questioned whether the monitoring results of the July 2017 Noise Monitoring Report indicated that the noise coming from the turbines exceeded the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s noise standards.
The DOC EERA recommended a list of actions for Big Blue to take, including selecting a contractor to perform a noise study and having the contractor be approved by the EERA and PUC and to submit a protocol for noise monitoring.
In the letter, the PUC also requested a summary of action in compliance with the site permit as well as the recommendations by the DOC EERA, and to show cause that there is no violation.
In the case that the noise given off by the wind turbines exceeds the noise standards, Big Blue would then be responsible for correcting the issue.
The PUC also requested a summary by Big Blue concerning the Avian and Bat Monitoring Annual Report, stating that a revised report was supposed to be filed by June 2015, but was never submitted.
According to the letter, a violation of the site permit condition could lead to revocation or suspension of the site permit.
According to PUC Executive Secretary Dan Wolf, while the PUC has adopted amendments to a number of wind site permits, to date it has not acted to revoke a permit from an operating wind farm.
On Monday, Jan. 15, Fagen Engineering, LLC released a Big Blue Wind Farm Informal Fatality Monitoring report, showing little avian and bat fatalities from 2015 through 2017.
On Thursday, Jan. 18, Brian Meloy, an energy attorney at Stinson Leonard Street, submitted the requested response on behalf of Big Blue. The response states that Big Blue did not violate its site permit, and that the company was waiting for the PUC for accept their protocol before conducting their 18-month post-construction noise study.
“Big Blue appreciates the amount of time Commission and Department Staff have taken to address concerns raised with respect to Big Blue’s compliance with the noise-related provisions of its Site Permit. As discussed above, however, the record shows that Big Blue has not violated its Site Permit in any material manner. Nevertheless, Big Blue believes that the best way to move forward is for the Commission to accept the Department’s recommendation that Big Blue be required to conduct a new noise study approved by the Commission. Big Blue believes that this step will permit the Project to resolve noise related concerns going-forward.”
According to the response, Big Blue Wind, LLC has requested a post-construction noise measurement protocol for the wind farm to meet the requirements of the Large Wind Energy Conversion System (LWECS) permit from the PUC.
Wolf said that the proposed noise protocol is currently under review by the Department of Commerce. It will then provide its analysis to the PUC, which will then consider the proposed noise protocol for approval and execution.
According to Wolf, this process is anticipated to take several months. During that time, the PUC will also be reviewing possible site permit or compliance violations.
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