Proposed wind farm clears hurdle

Published 6:25 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A 300-megawatt wind farm is still moving forward in Mower County after the Public Utility Commission denied a request to hold a contested case hearing.

Last Thursday, the Public Utility Commission denied the request concerning the proposed Pleasant Valley Wind Farm in Mower County.

Had the PUC chosen to hold a contested hearing, an administrative law judge could have reviewed the case. Paul Johnson, manager of development at the Minneapolis office for RES Americas, said the move could have potentially set a precedent for all wind farm projects, and it would have extended the permitting process by six months to a year.

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“We’re very pleased,” Johnson said. “It was the hopeful outcome and the expected outcome given the process that’s underway.”

Essentially, the PUC upheld the current permitting process and ruled that the current process addresses the concerns like set back distances, health concerns and other issues regarding wind farms.

Renewable Energy Systems Americas is proposing to build the Pleasant Valley wind farm. The 130 to 200 turbine project would be located in an 80-square-mile area bordered by Interstate 90 on the south and east, Highway 56 to the west and Highway 30 to the north.

A group of concerned citizens gave a presentation to back their request for a contested hearing. The PUC also denied a request to hold a contested hearing on a 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County. According to Johnson, that project faced more opposition than the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm. The two projects are not related.

According to Johnson, there are currently many avenues for people to submit questions and comments to the PUC regarding all wind farm projects in the state.

Johnson said he is hoping the PUC approves the site permit and certificate of need in June for the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm. Construction would either begin in the fall or next spring. Johnson couldn’t confirm it they planned to start construction this fall, but he said he’d like to have that option.

The PUC will host a pubic meeting in the project in the next few months, likely in mid-May.

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