Oops, there goes a Suzlon…

Anyway, today the STrib has an editorial today about increasing setbacks — it’s a mixed bag — scroll way down below to read it.  This concern of setbacks is ramping up and  goes back to concerns raised over the years regarding individual projects as they wind their way through the permitting process.  Now there is this PUC Docket that is coming to a head, based on a survey report commissioned by the Commission — they’re supposed to have a PUC meeting addressing this docket, maybe this month, but no word yet, don’t worry, I’ll post notice here (we know they’re not so hot on giving notice to non-wind industry interests in this docket):

MN Dept of Health – Public Health Impacts of Wind Turbines

To look at that docket, CLICK HERE FOR PUC SEARCH, and search for docket 09-845.

This also comes at the time that Comments are due in the Goodhue Wind PPA docket.  To look at that, go to CLICK HERE FOR PUC SEARCH, and search for dockets 09-1349 and 09-1350.  For the Certificate of Need docket for Goodhue Wind, see Docket 09-1186.

Yesterday (the comment deadline WAS yesterday) I filed this for Goodhue Wind Truth:

Goodhue Wind Truth – Comment 2

Then it turns out the PUC had filed another extension for MOES (seems they can’t meet a deadline these days, the EIS for CapX was also just delayed today too) and the deadline is now 2/12 for Comments and 2/22 for Reply Comments.   GREAT!  Another whack at the apple…  Now’s your chance.  You can eFile them at the PUC site, or mail in, take a look at the Comment above to get an idea how to do it.

Back to wind generally — This opinion piece was in the Republican Beagle a few days ago:

Study of wind project may blow you away

Erin Logan


I found out by pure accident my home is in the Goodhue Wind Project area by looking at the map published Dec. 9 Zumbro Shopper. What a surprise. Why wasn’t I notified?

I received a packet in the mail sometime around Dec. 15 from a Twin Cities attorney; let’s just call it “notification.” I decided I better read the information to find out what it means to be in the Goodhue Wind Project.

The 212-page document is a dry read, but some interesting information caught my attention. It includes a site map identifying homes and proposed placement of the 400-foot tall wind turbines.

To my surprise my home does not exist on the proposed project map, but it does show a wind turbine 100 feet from my home and two more within 1,500 feet. I wonder how many other homes have been omitted from or wiped off the map?

Let me share a few things I have learned since I read through this packet.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over this project due its size. The public can submit comments regarding the permit application until Jan. 22. I will definitely take advantage of this opportunity, although I’m not sure how much good it will do.

I understand the PUC was made aware of homes not included in the project application, but were not concerned with the detail of the site plan.

Reading through information on the PUC Web site I learned a state statute allows our county commissioners to adopt more stringent zoning ordinances for Large Wind Energy Conversion Systems. This means our local elected officials have the authority to define what is best for Goodhue County residents regarding this project.

The purpose of the setback is to protect adjacent landowners if the turbine falls over, mitigate noise levels and shadow flicker that may be imposed on their homes. It will also provide protection if any ice builds up on the blades, breaks off and plummets 400 feet to the ground.

I have learned that current Goodhue County zoning setback requirements do not allow a wind turbine to be erected within 750 feet of a dwelling. This is reciprocal in that a dwelling cannot be constructed within 750 feet of a wind turbine.

Hmmm, I think I just lost the right to build an attached garage or an addition between my house and that wind turbine 750 feet away.

The property line setbacks are less stringent: 500 feet for a 400-foot tall wind turbine.

I encourage anyone who has an unoccupied residence or temporary dwelling in place to speak up. This project could restrict where you are allowed to build on your property.

Gaps in the system like this make it clear to me we are not prepared to endorse a project of this magnitude. This is new territory that warrants some education in lieu of assuming we can rely on outdated regulations to provide safety, health and well-being to Goodhue County residents.

As I read through this permit application I see inaccurate data, incomplete information and open-ended statements. There are far too many to include in detail, so I’ll share a few of the items that seem fairly important to me.

• Actual wind turbine size — The permit application states that this can be changed to meet the needs of the project. Will they be 300 feet, 400 feet or taller?

• Equipment specifications — The application identifies the sound level created by the smallest wind turbine they would choose to install. This data is used to determine the distance the wind turbine can be located from your residence while ensuring they don’t exceed the maximum amount of noise pollution you can be subjected to.

• Project decommissioning — As stated in the application, all above-ground equipment and foundations, to a depth of 4 feet, will be removed. This does not meet Goodhue County Ordinance, Article 18, Section 5, Subd. 10.

• Economic impact — This is such a multi-faceted topic, but it is good to note the claim that the local economy will benefit from the dollars the project will pay in state and local taxes and the long-term beneficial impacts to the counties’ tax base. Take a look at the corporate Web site — — which lists the financial incentives for wind projects. The way I read that information, this project will be exempt from both property and sales tax.

I would also like to know what kind of long-term impacts this will have on local and county roadway lifecycles.

I hope enough people encourage our commissioners to update zoning ordinances to adequately mitigate the impact of a Large Wind Energy Conversion System on Goodhue County residents.

For anyone who thinks this doesn’t affect them, keep in mind wind conditions are similar throughout Goodhue County and there is a lot of land out there. Implementing this project may open the door for wind turbines in your neighborhood.

I need more information before I can make an educated decision on whether this project will be a benefit or a detriment. Perhaps others in and around the Goodhue Wind Project area have received more information.

This is a community-based project, yet I have never had one of the local representatives stop by during one of the many trips they’ve made past my home. I believe that a good idea is worth talking about, so why all of the secrecy?

Here’s the response of Ann Occhiato, a  landowner who lives in the proposed Greenvale project in Dakota County to the STrib editorial, below:

I am writing in response to today’s editorial on increased wind turbine setbacks.  While the editorial highlights the critical need to increase setbacks to maintain wind’s momentum, it minimizes the reasons why setbacks are important in the first place.

There is, in fact, credible evidence that low frequency sound from wind turbines can have a negative impact on health.  The Minnesota Dept. of Health’s white paper on the Public Health Impacts of Wind Turbines outlines this and recommends the cumulative affect of multiple turbines be taken into account when evaluating sound impacts, which is not currently done.  There is a huge amount of circumstantial evidence from homeowners living near turbines all over the world on the negative impacts to quality of life, health, safety, and property values.  While the wind industry and proponents of wind like to point to studies that minimize these issues, numerous other studies show these impacts to be real.

The fact is there are serious issues related to wind farming that need to be addressed including setbacks, environmental regulation, property rights, health, safety, quality of life, and economic justice, among others.  Industrial scale wind turbines clustered in “farms” can ruin neighborhoods and seriously alter the course of people’s lives.  Belittling their concerns will not help the wind industry in Minnesota and it certainly does not make us a national leader.

As wind continues to spread these problems will only become more pronounced.  Increased setbacks, pre-permitting site guidelines, community support and involvement, alternative modeling, and other solutions are necessary for the continued growth of the wind industry in Minnesota.  Developers, public officials, legislators, and environmental groups have a responsibility to address these issues.

Ann Occhiato

Here’s the STrib’s editorial:

Editorial: Reconsider setbacks for wind turbines

Expand wind energy while respecting rural livability.

To drive through the Minnesota countryside is to drive through contradiction. Those vast rolling fields — are they busy engines of production for the agriculture industry? Or are they places of natural beauty, serenity and tranquility?

It’s harder nowadays to have it both ways. The rapid advance of wind farming, for example, has transformed the rural landscape. Hardly anyone denies the value of the clean energy produced by the giant wind turbines going up on sparsely populated land all across the country. At last count there were nearly 1,500 such turbines operating in Minnesota, making it the nation’s fourth-largest wind power-producing state. Many more turbines are on the way, and that’s a good thing.

But if badly located, the machines can harm not only the beauty and serenity that so many rural people value, but invite thoughtless and pernicious opposition to wind power generation. That, in turn, could impede the changeover to greener energy that’s so badly needed. Minnesota must keep pace with its goal of producing 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources (mostly wind) by 2025. The current share from wind is about 5 percent.

As the Star Tribune’s Tom Meersman reported last week, complaints about wind turbines are mounting, less on their merits than on their occasionally inappropriate locations. A family near Austin, for example, lives just across the road from a wind farm. One giant turbine, about 900 feet away, casts a flickering shadow over their 100-year-old farmhouse. There’s little they can do. State law allows commercial turbines as close as 500 feet from dwellings, although decibel restrictions typically stretch the actual distance to 700 to 1,000 feet. That’s still too close for a 400-foot turbine, especially if it’s not on your property.

Machines have become considerably taller since the state passed minimum setback restrictions in the 1990s. It’s time for the Legislature to increase the setbacks. Four counties already have done so, although Nicollet County’s half-mile rule seems a bit extreme. Governments should strike a balance that shows consideration to neighbors yet continues to encourage wind power generation in appropriate settings. The siting of wind turbines is a complex matter of physics, logistics, economics and common courtesy.

What’s most worrisome is the kind of rhetoric that has stymied attempts by the city of New Ulm, among others, to build turbines. It’s hogwash to argue that agriculture is a better use of land or to spread fear and ignorance about government land grabs for wind projects. If anything, there’s an oversupply of farmland and too little urgency about converting to green energy. As for noise, there’s little credible evidence that low-frequency sound from wind turbines is any more harmful than the routine hum of traffic for any urban dweller.

Aesthetics? That seems to depend on individual taste. To some the turbines are graceful and artistic; to others they are monstrosities. Then again, fences, silos and grain elevators were once considered blemishes on the rural landscape, and the Eiffel Tower was vilified as an “odious black blot” on the skyline of Paris.

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