Letter: Freeborn Wind tabled at PUC

Today, the Public Utilities Commission tabled Freeborn Wind’s project docket. Parties have 14 days to provide language and explanation of proposed noise permit requirements, with motions for reconsideration tabled for a future meeting. That also gives confused commissioners time to review recent party filings.

Recent party filings were triggered by a Freeborn Wind filing in January, which said:

“Freeborn Wind’s Sept. 19, 2018, late-filed Proposal for Special Conditions Related to Noise outlines the agreement reached between Freeborn Wind, the department and the MPCA on this issue.”

Agreement? Association of Freeborn County Landowners (AFCL) submitted Data Practices Act requests to MPCA and Department of Commerce to get the facts. Tuesday, the MPCA  responded, and yes, an agreement was reached: “Does the attached look acceptable to you? If so, I’d suggest we file this tomorrow and you file a short letter confirming you agree. Then we show up Thursday morning” from Freeborn’s Litchfield to Commerce’s Wachtler, Sept. 17, 2018. And Thursday morning, Sept. 20, at the PUC they showed up and acted in concert. 

The MPCA’s response also shows emails and a meeting in May, after the recommendation of the ALJ was released. Then there was a flurry of emails over the weekend of Sept. 14-17, triggered by the MPCA letter Sept. 11, explaining that ambient noise is to be included in noise modeling, that MPCA doesn’t have jurisdiction over wind noise (Commerce does), and offering a compromise of 1 dB(A), which resulted in “the agreement.”

AFCL filed this documentation Wednesday with the PUC.  At the same time Wednesday, Commerce’s Wachtler forwarded AFCL his data practices response, which said Commerce deletes emails after 90 days, and nothing else — no documentation at all. I forwarded Wachtler the MPCA’s response, and also filed his non-response with the PUC for the world to see.

At the PUC today, Commerce’s Davis angrily said there was no agreement and that AFCL’s claim was offensive. Objection! The emails and Freeborn Wind’s filings state otherwise, and it’s now a matter of public record. 

Freeborn Wind states they cannot meet the noise standard and proposed “garbage in — garbage out” changes for modeling assumptions: ground factor from 0.0 to 0.5, adding 3 dB(A) which doubles sound pressure; raise the dB(A) for wind contribution of noise to total noise, which “would result in a nonsignificant increase in total sound of less than 3 dB(A);” and when added to “margin of error” of ± 3 dB(A), it adds up. Non-significant? Objection!

Freeborn Wind has said it can’t move turbines away from residents to lower noise levels. Freeborn Wind has also said it has alternate sites in Iowa.

OK, Freeborn Wind, since you can’t comply with Minnesota noise standards, it’s time to move to Iowa. 

Carol A. Overland, Attorney for

Association of Freeborn County Landowners

Solar? WI Regulators Punt

February 26th, 2019


Carol A. Overland: Big solar projects need guidance, but regulators punt

Bill Berry’s recent op/ed column said it clearly — the Public Service Commission and solar industry need guidance for siting solar projects. Wisconsin has none. There’s specific wind-siting guidance, but none for solar.

How would “guidance” happen? Typically, that’s “rulemaking,” which can occur by legislative mandate, on the commission’s initiative, or by citizen petition.

Without “guidance,” projects are sited willy-nilly, without regard for setbacks from properties and homes, impacts on agriculture and “exclusive agriculture” land, community purpose and character. When a project moves into an established community, it’s a set-up for a “nuisance” that interferes with another’s use of their property, interferes with their lives.

Jewell Jinkins Intervenors, landowners who are intervening in the Badger Hollow solar project dockets, filed a petition for rulemaking for solar rules and environmental update, and were joined by landowners in Jefferson County. In filing this petition, we were hoping to head off largely irreversible siting problems. Once it’s built, if problems occur, then what?

However, the PSC declared that “rulemaking is not necessary at this time.” Isn’t any other time too late? The commission chose to abdicate its power and claims a legislative mandate is needed for rulemaking. The commission said an update of environmental rules wasn’t necessary, although “solar” doesn’t require any environmental review. A solar project with a lifespan of 30-50 years, with a PSC staff-admitted “dramatic” impact of industrial infrastructure covering prime ag land, doesn’t require environmental review! The commission claims there’s “flexibility in order to ensure that large-scale solar projects get an appropriate level of environmental review.” That didn’t occur for Badger Hollow.

Work within the system? Sure, we’re trying, but with as dysfunctional and absent a regulatory system as this, well — how’s that working for us?

Carol A. Overland, attorney for Jewell Jinkins Intervenors, of Iowa County, WI

Red Wing, Minnesota

And yet another year where Xcel, errrrrr, NSP, had a lackluster peak demand.  That’s a good thing, verification that we can get along with a lot less coal and nuclear.  And it’s also good as proof that of those Certificates of Need, based on their bogus “modeling” predicting 2.49% annual increase, we could jettison how many of those projects?  How much infrastructure was built that clearly wasn’t needed, at least by their justifications? Billions, right?  How much will ratepayers be refunded given all these unnecessary projects based on bogus projections?

Here are the details:

And looking at it another way:

Here’s the primary doc — Xcel’s 2018 10-K, just search for “peak demand” and there it is:

Xcel 2018_10-K

So now can we get all that unneeded transmission yanked up and hauled to the salvage yard?

Does this solar make my house look fat?!?! Soon… coming to a new white roof on West! It looks reasonable that we can cover our annual useage, average is 465 kWhr/mo., and if we can keep Alan’s air conditioner out of the window, and figure out a heater for the mudroom during polar vortices (?)(got a panel heater, should work), it’s even lower, so NO PROBLEM! Won’t be able to get out of the $8/mo to Xcel for the privilege of getting a low bill from them, drat!

We’ve got the new roof on, so we’re ready to rock! Just have to nail down the details!

THIS is how solar should be, on every rooftop. It’s SO easy, it’s at load, DOH!  Just do it!

And then there’s this: Build a Simple Solar Air Heater.

I want one on the south side of every building in Red Wing. How hard would that be?