First step to wind farm clears hurdle

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A Nicollet County panel has recommended approval for construction of a rural wind-speed measurement tower over the protestations of a landowners group

The planning and zoning commission on Monday granted a request from the New Ulm Public Utilities Commission, which wants to erect a 200-foot meteorological tower in Nicollet County’s Lafayette Township.

Tower data would determine the viability of eventual erection of five wind turbines in that area.

The turbines would supply New Ulm with a portion of its electrical power needs, but the landowners group is opposed to a wind farm in that locale.

Group spokesman Jeff Franta told commission members the group is not opposed to wind energy as a source of electric power, but it feels there are places better suited for wind turbines.

Landowners said the area is home to highly productive agricultural land, and wind turbines would be better suited for non-farmed lands.

“We can have corn production, and we can have wind production. But sometimes they’re not a good mix,” said group member Clete Goblirsch, one of 77 signers of a petition opposing the wind farm project in the township.

Landowners recited a litany of potential negative outcomes of wind turbine placements, including safety hazards posed to aerial crop sprayers, large and annoying “shadow flickers” cast upon farmsteads by rotating turbine blades, and livestock concerns.

“How will dairy cows react to the constant effects of wind turbines?” said group member Kim Reinhart.

New Ulm Public Utilities engineer Pat Wrase said the Lafayette Township sites were selected because they offer the most cost-effective location from which to transmit power to nearby New Ulm.

The turbines would be erected on the properties of three landowners, who would each receive annual payments of $6,400 for use of their land.

Each turbine would use about one-half acre of space. Franta said the landowners who have signed leases with the New Ulm entity have opposed the project from the start, but entered the lease agreements only for fear of losing portions of their land through the eminent domain process.

The planning and zoning commission recommendation to approve the wind speed tower will be voted on by the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners.

The wind farm project coincides with new state guidelines that will require 25 percent of the state’s electrical power to come from renewable resources by 2025.

Wrase said the turbines would produce 5 to 7 megawatts of power.

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