Weighing in on windMAZEPPA - Larry Hartman threw a question out to the large crowd gathered Thursday to learn and comment about a proposed 52-turbine wind farm in rural Goodhue. "What is wind?" the Minnesota Office of Energy Security staffer asked.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
MAZEPPA - Larry Hartman threw a question out to the large crowd gathered Thursday to learn and comment about a proposed 52-turbine wind farm in rural Goodhue.
"What is wind?" the Minnesota Office of Energy Security staffer asked.
Mumbles from the crowd highlighted what has divided some neighbors and friends the past few years since wind energy companies came knocking, offering landowners money to house turbines.
More than 30 residents provided a wide variety of opinions and comments during a three-hour meeting to gather input for an environmental review required as part of AWA Goodhue's certificate of need application filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
The company, managed by National Wind, also has filed a site permit application with the PUC, the state agency that handles such large-sale projects.
Some Goodhue County residents remain skeptical of the proposed 32,000-acre project that some of their neighbors and wind energy company advocates say will stimulate the area's economy and help the state meet renewable energy demands.
Hundreds of project opponents - dubbed Goodhue Wind Truth - have submitted a petition to the Goodhue County Board asking for a "safe renewable energy plan."
The petition asks commissioners to implement a one-half mile setback between wind turbines and homes to help reduce the health and safety threats residents say turbines pose.
"The safety and health of people is a priority over money," said Steve Groth, a Belle Creek Township landowner and member of Goodhue Wind Truth. "The government is there to protect you. When you sidestep that issue, everything falls apart."
@Sub heads:Economic opportunity
@Normal1: Chuck Burdick, senior wind developer with National Wind, said his company's project will bring 100 to 200 jobs to the area during construction and two to five permanent jobs.
He said leaseholders and participants will receive more than $20 million over the life of the project.
"We think that's a significant economic injection into the area," Burdick said.
Some area landowners agree.
They say harvesting wind gives farmers another way to supplement their income and that wind energy is another part of the changing rural lifestyle.
Larry Fox, a Belle Creek Township landowner, said he hears the hum of corn driers and can smell manure when the wind blows just right.
"I don't complain," he said. "We just adapt and know this is a farm community."
Fox said he would receive $30,000 over the next 20 years for housing a wind turbine.
"That's a tremendous amount of revenue for these small communities," Fox said. "I think revenue outweighs a lot of factors here."
Other farmers say they're excited to house alternative energy on their land.
Sara Linker Nord lives in Minneola Township and has land in AWA Goodhue's project footprint. She said she found the wind turbines just outside Palm Springs, Calif., "aesthetically pleasing and majestic" and was disappointed when she found out others did not feel the same.
"It gives farms another crop with little land loss," she said. "Alternative energy created on American soil increases our energy independence."
But opponents argue the dangers associated with wind turbines outweigh any alleged financial benefits.
"When you put these turbines up and call yourself and environmentalist, I'd like you to do some soul searching," said Tom Schulte, a rural Goodhue County landowner who said he recently built a geothermally heated and cooled energy efficient home.
"Because you're probably not doing it for the environment, you're doing it because you're profiting."
Schulte and other opponents said the environment and rural landscape are at risk if wind energy is not developed properly and responsibly. Livestock, water supplies, agricultural land, bald eagles and other birds need to be protected and studies need to be completed to analyze wind farm impacts, several residents told state officials.
Opponents also argue the state-required setbacks between homes and turbines are not great enough to minimize safety and health issues associated with turbine shadow flicker and noise.
Minnesota law requires a minimum 500-foot setback from residences or the state noise standard, whichever is greater. Minnesota's noise standard restricts wind turbines from exceeding 50 decibels at night.
In practice, meeting that standard often means placing wind turbines at distances of 700 to 1,200 feet, according to a recent report by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The DOH's scientific study found that noise from wind turbines "generally is not a major concern for humans beyond a half-mile or so," because of design innovations to reduce noise.
Goodhue Wind Truth members want at half-mile setbacks. AWA Goodhue is doing voluntary 1,500-foot setbacks (just over one-quarter mile) from non-participating residents, Burdick said.
Zumbrota Mayor Richard Bauer also asked state officials to consider two-mile setbacks from Zumbrota and Goodhue's corporate limits to make sure the cities are able to grow in an "orderly manner."
Comments for the environmental report will be accepted until March 26. They can be sent to Larry Hartman, Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 Seventh Place E. Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55101. Comments can be sent by e-mail to email@example.com.