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State gives feedback on draft wind ordinance

In order for Goodhue County's draft wind ordinance to be considered by the state, its requirements need to be backed up with reasoning, according to a state official who met with the county's wind energy subcommittee Wednesday.

Deborah Pile, a representative from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, met with county officials to discuss the county's role in deliberations over the 78 MW, 12,000 acre Goodhue Wind Project. She said the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates large-scale wind projects, would be more likely to address the county's concerns if they were supported by evidence.

"We're being challenged a little today," said county planner Michael Wozniak. "We have these proposed changes, and they're telling us 'OK, that's fine, but what's your reasoning?'"

The Wind Energy Conversion Systems Subcommittee has worked in recent weeks to develop an updated wind ordinance for large-scale wind developments. The state has all regulatory authority over these projects but has said it will consider ordinances and comments submitted by local government bodies.

Pile said the county's concerns over issues such as shadow flicker from spinning turbines, noise and the project's potential impact on local natural resources would be best served if they were put in ordinance form, backed up by evidence.

She pointed to the county's proposed limits on shadow flicker in particular, questioning where officials came up with their limit of 30 hours per year.

"There has to be a justification," she said.

Whether the county completes its ordinance in time to be fully considered by the PUC, however, is a different matter.

Pile said the PUC likely will come to a final verdict on the Goodhue Wind project in early October. Local officials have said that the county's ordinance probably couldn't pass through the board until mid-September.

Asked if that would give the PUC enough time to consider the county's ordinance, Pile said "I don't know."

A further delay of the PUC's decision to accommodate the county is not likely. The agency has time constraints of its own, she said, and has been reviewing Goodhue Wind's proposed project since permits were submitted in November.

"It's already gone much longer than is typical," she said.

County officials still plan to push forward with the draft ordinance. Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said the subcommittee will pass the draft ordinance on to the Planning Advisory Commission at a workshop meeting July 19.

"It's a good moment to have the Planning Commission digest it and give us their views," he said.

The commission will likely then bring up the ordinance for formal consideration at its meeting in mid-August, according to Wozniak.