At a meeting Monday, July 8, the Le Sueur City Council discussed potentially relocating a wind turbine off of Hwy. 112 to 950 Kingsway Drive just south of Calvary Cemetery. Unable to decide on the night, the discussion was tabled until the next council meeting on July 22.
The motion came after the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (MMPA) requested the city’s cooperation in refurbishing the wind turbine MPAA had given the city in 2009. MMPA is in the process of refurbishing wind turbines in all 12 of their member cities and would cover the cost of maintenance. The turbine south of Le Sueur has not been turning at all in recent years.
However, Councilman Newell Krogmann, Public Services Director Richard Kucera and City Administrator Jasper Kruggel told the MMPA it would be a waste to spend money on the turbine in its current location. The turbine was far removed from public sight and was not producing energy for the city. Krogmann, Kucera and Kruggel instead advocated that either the MMPA not spend the money to refurbish the turbine, or to move it into town where it can supply energy and be part of the MMPA member city marketing plan.
MMPA agreed to relocate the turbine and would cover all costs. Councilors Krogmann and Krucera mapped out potential spots and determined that the location on Kingsway Drive was the only viable place for it due to zoning requirements. The turbine needed to be placed in either an industrial or a public institutional zoning district, due to its height it is required to be 125 feet away from other buildings, it needs to be on property owned by the city of Le Sueur and the council wanted it in an area visible to the community.
“You look at places like River Park submerged in a flood zone, Mayo Park you’re in a flood zone. The other possibility would be the wastewater facility, which we technically don’t own yet and there’s really nowhere to put it there,” said Krogmann. “We’re in that box right there, which isn’t so bad. It will still be visible and still be known.”
Krogmann said that the wind turbine would function to promote and provide renewable energy to the community and could be a possible educational opportunity for the community if the Le Sueur-Henderson School District chose to integrate field trips to the turbine into the curriculum.
City Attorney John Skubitz was skeptical of these benefits.
“My understanding is it was a more ceremonial thing when each MMPA city received these turbines,” said Skubitz ”As far as practicality and green energy, my understanding is this is not a real energy producer. It obviously is a nuisance. If you go up to other cities, they put them far away from houses, businesses, apartments, anything that would be a nuisance, and I believe that’s why it ended up south of town. I believe the other goal of the wind turbine is there would be some education with the local schools. I don’t know if there’s been any follow through on that … Obviously, it’s not an energy producer, it’s clearly a nuisance. I would caution bringing it into the city without some sort of input from the neighborhoods and businesses around there.”
“Those are all concerns the council has to consider, but I can tell you there’s really nowhere else to put it.” Krogmann replied. “It does produce energy. It’s not that it doesn’t; it’s not going to supply the whole city, but it’s a functional unit that will be hooked up to our electrical grid within the city. It’s not just some thing that spins around.“
On the issue of noise, Councilor Mark Huntington pointed out that the turbine would likely be quieter than before.
“I directly call on wind turbine companies with the company I work for. The industry has changed considerably in the last 15 years,” said Huntington. “I would assume when they do this refurbishing, they’ll do it to update it and make it less noisy. What they’ve done in recent years is change the pitch angle of the propeller, which produces less noise.”
However, Huntington did have reservations about the turbine’s proximity to apartment buildings across from Kingsway Drive.
In addition to these worries, Councilor Shawn Kirby and Mayor Gregory Hagg both brought up concerns that the turbine could ruin the view of a crucifix added to the Calvary Cemetery.
“I’m a big supporter of green energy. I think it’s a good marketing tool to have that very visible in our community,” said Kirby. “My only concern is … over the last three years, I’ve been a part of Calvary Cemetery for a while, and we put a rather large religious icon. It’s a quite striking statue we put in there, and I’m just a little concerned about having that windmill directly behind it.”
“I’m not against putting the turbine there,” Kirby added. “I’m not advocating it, but I’m not boycotting it either. I just want us to be mindful of where it goes.”
Kirby and Hagg requested that the turbine be moved eastward. Administrator Kruggel told the councilors that there is some room on the property for the turbine to be moved east.
Councilor Marvin Sullivan also raised worries that the turbine could interfere with signals from nearby radio towers. MMPA told the council this wasn’t an issue, but Sullivan stated that he wanted to check with the radio tower owners directly to ensure this wasn’t an issue.
Councilor Krogmann motioned to table the discussion, believing that the council needed answers to the concerns raised before making a decision. The council planned to contact MMPA to see if the refurbishing will reduce noise and the Le-Sueur Henderson School District to see if they were interested in using the turbine as an educational tool.
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