The owner of a 100.2 megawatt (MW) wind project between Ruthton and Holland plans to remove 137 existing wind turbines and replace them with 44 new, larger turbines that will produce the same amount of electricity.
The project, slated to be completed by the end of 2019, is owned by Lake Benton II, LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources. The 137 towers that stand now have been operational since 2000 and the power has been sold to Xcel.
Danell Herzig, project director of renewable development with NextEra, said during a Sept. 27 public meeting for the project that it will be sold to Xcel Energy after the new turbines are installed.
“We have contracted with them to repower the site, get it through permitting, get it all the way through construction, and once commercial operation is achieved, at that time, we’ll actually have a closing with Xcel and they will own and operate this asset,” Herzig said.
NextEra plans to begin decommissioning the existing turbines early next year with the new turbines erected and operational by the end of the year. Herzig said some components of the old turbines will be refurbished, some will be donated to technical schools that train wind technicians, and some will be scrapped.
As part of the process to get to the construction phase, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the permitting authority for projects of this size, held the Sept. 27 public meeting at the Emergency Services building in Pipestone. About 50 people attended the meeting.
Most of the roughly 90-minute meeting was used by the PUC and NextEra to explain the project and the process required to bring it to reality. Only four people took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions or share their thoughts about the project.
Local residents who spoke included Larry Brands and Stephanie LaBrune.
Brands said he was “not happy” about the plans or living next to the project as it is now and asked why he hadn’t been compensated for having it near his home. Larry Hartman, Department of Commerce environmental review manager, pointed out that only people who own land on which elements of the project sit are compensated.
LaBrune asked questions about transmission lines and how the company created the list of people it contacted in the project area. She said there was a communications tower within the project area that was not noted in the draft permit and gave the NextEra staff the location of the tower.
She also contended that the setback requirements were not being met for her property. The draft permit indicated that the turbines must be setback five rotor blade diameters on the prevailing wind sides and three rotor blade diameters on the non-prevailing wind sides from the perimeter of property where the company does not have wind rights. Hartman said the company is still working on obtaining easements for some locations.
Lucas Franco, with the Laborers’ International Union of North America for Minnesota and North Dakota, asked what efforts NextEra was making to recruit local workers. Herzig said it has hired Blattner, a contractor out of Avon, Minn., but that some specialized laborers, such as the heavy crane operators, might not be from Minnesota. Mark Thompson with NextEra said local labor will be used for some of the less skilled work. It was unclear what share of the 200-plus construction workers who are expected to be hired to work on the repowering project will be local.
Another man said he was involved in the recycling business and that he might be able to help dispose of components of the 137 towers that will be removed. Herzig said NextEra would put him in touch with the contractor.