County OKs draft of environmental assessment for wind farm transmission line, substation

Published 10:24am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another meeting, another step forward Tuesday by the county board in permitting for the 200-MW Pleasant Valley Wind Farm.

The county board unanimously accepted a draft of the environmental assessment for a substation and transmission line for the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm Project near Dexter, Sargeant and into Dodge County.

The big question facing the board Tuesday was whether the assessment adequately addressed issues and concerns brought up during the scoping meeting and public comment period, and ultimately the board did.

Property values have been a common concern at prior meetings, and commissioners said they’ve seen no proof of transmission lines and substations lowering property values.

“With all those [turbines] we have in the county already — and they’ve been here for a while — there should be some evidence if that was the case,” board Chairman Jerry Reinartz said.

However, there have been few studies on the subject, and Reinartz said he’d like to look at home sales from properties near existing wind projects in the county to see if values have been effected.

Another concern was brought up again: Underground transmission lines instead of the planned overhead lines. Reinartz asked Renewable Energy Systems Americas officials why they couldn’t use an underground transmission line, which residents spoke favorably of at prior meetings.

RES Development Manager Justin Markell said burying a 161-KV transmission line is unfeasible due to cost, impact to the land and performance. Overhead lines are the most effective means for the size of transmission line, and he said underground lines are not common in rural areas. Underground lines are more commonly used in highly populated areas and for smaller collector lines that run from turbines to substations, according to Markell.

“We do understand the aesthetic appeal of an underground line,” he said.

More than a dozen people attended Tuesday’s board meeting, but no one spoke. They will still have time for comments, though. The draft now goes to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB), which will likely publish the assessment in the EQB Monitor on Jan. 6. The public will have 10 days to submit comments on the environmental assessment, which will be available at www.eqb.state.mn.us/monitor.html. Commissioners also said the public will have additional time to comment before the board approves or denies a request for a conditional use permits for the transmission line and substation.

On Jan. 28, 2014, the board is scheduled to make its final decision on the environmental assessment before holding public hearings on conditional use permits for the transmission line and substation on Feb. 25, 2014. The dates, however, could change.

The 100 2-MW turbines are already approved by the state, but the Mower County board is the permitting authority for the transmission line for the transmission line and substation for the project. Comments regarding the towers will not be addressed in the environmental assessment.

RES America plans to begin building the wind farm next spring, and the wind farm should be completed by October 2015. RES Americas will build an operations and maintenance facility that will likely be located in Sargeant. Once completed, Xcel Energy will purchase the wind farm.


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