Wind farm gains final county approval

Published 7:28 am Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The biggest wind farm to date has been cleared to start construction in Mower County.

The county board approved three substations and two transmission lines for the 300 MW Pleasant Valley Wind Farm Project on Tuesday. The county’s approval was the final permitting needed for the Renewable Energy Systems Americas project.

“It’s going to bring in a lot of good jobs, a lot of taxes to the area,” said DuWayne Skov Landowner and Dexter Township Supervisor. “It’s not 100 percent what we need, but they don’t stink, they don’t pollute, and they don’t use up any natural resources.”

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“We’re all for it,” he added.

RES recently received a site permit and certificate of need from the state of Minnesota.

The project area will consist of about 70,000 acres near Dexter and Sargeant. About 130 to 200 turbines will be built, depending on the size of turbines selected. Paul Johnson, a project manager with RES, said his comany is still debating what kind of turbines to use.

“I think we’re making good progress,” Johnson said. “We’re excited.”

He said they’ll continue working to communicate with landowners and take extra time to make sure needs are met now.

“Once the things are built, it’s awfully hard to move them around,” he said.

Though no definite date has been set, construction could begin as soon as next summer.

“We want to be in a position as soon as possible to be able to move forward when that opportunity arises,” Johnson said.

The north and south transmission line routes were altered slightly since the county board approved an environmental assessment for the project in August. Johnson said the change came because RES officials wanted to minimize the project’s affect to landowners and local residents.

The board ruled the changes were not significant enough to warrant a new environmental assessment.

“I don’t see any significant change or impact or anything significantly different for the EA (environmental assessment) that we’re looking at,” said Commissioner David Hillier.

Philip Heydt, who is the landowner for one of the substations, said he isn’t thrilled with having to farm around the structure, but he is ultimately in favor of the project.

“It does make it harder to plant and harvest when you’re running with 40 and 60 and 80 foot equipment,” Heydt said. “But for the good of the project, we would go along with the proposal.”

Johnson said the placement of the structure was the best option to keep the substation close to the transmission line.

“It allows the project to proceed in a timely fashion,” Johnson said.

RES is looking for a company to purchase the proposed wind farm or the output of the project.

“We’re aggressively considering options for potential buyers of the project,” Johnson said, though he said the names of potential companies are confidential.