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‘We’ll keep fighting’: Freeborn County landowners call on state to stop wind project

After a two-year fight, a new wind farm has finally been given the green light in southern Minnesota.

But in Freeborn County, hundreds of neighbors are making some noise about it.

For more than 20 years, the view hasn’t changed for the Hansen family southeast of Albert Lea in Glenville. They’ve spent the last two years doing whatever they can to keep it that way.

“There are people who buy lake-front property because they want the lake lifestyle. There are people who move to the city because they want the city lifestyle. We live in rural America because we want the rural lifestyle,” said Dorenne Hansen with the Association of Freeborn County Landowners.

The Freeborn Wind Project by Chicago-based Invenergy calls for 42 turbines set up throughout four townships despite 80% of the 470 people in the proposed project area signed a petition opposing it.

“To be perfectly honest, people around here I don’t think ever thought something like this would happen,” Hansen said.

An administrative law judge stepped in to say Invenergy’s proposal failed to meet Minnesota’s noise standards. Landowners are now calling on the state to put a stop to large wind projects like this one until it develops better rules to regulate the noise from these 450-foot towers.

Recently, however, the Public Utilities Commission upheld the site permit.

“The PUC doesn’t want to enter in to rulemaking, but instead they’re just going to make an entirely new rule for this project. They moved the goal post. They made them wider and moved it closer,” Hansen said.

Hansen believes the power to stop the project may now lie with the people who will have the collection and transmission lines on their land.

“So in order to build the project, they have to go through some non-participant land and the PUC did not grant a permit for that to happen,” Hansen said. “We’ll keep fighting. We’ll keep fighting administratively and we’ll keep fighting for our landowners.”

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners and the MN Public Utilities Commission signed off on the plan this spring. Construction could begin on the turbines this summer.

Xcel Energy has purchased the project from Invenergy. In a statement, Xcel says they look forward to working with the community as this project moves forward. They say the wind farm is integral in nearly doubling the amount of wind energy generated for their customers by 2022.