Residents voice concerns about effects of new wind farm’s transmission lines

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Microsoft Word - PleasantValley_PUCLetter_Notice 10172013.docThe scope of the project may be smaller, but people still have concerns about the transmission line and substation for the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm near Dexter, Sargeant and into Dodge County.

The county board held a meeting Tuesday to gauge the public’s concerns with the environmental effects of the proposed transmission line and substation for the wind farm, which was approved by the Public Utilities Commission in mid-October. The comments will be vital in preparing an environmental assessment on the transmission line and substation.

One couple admitted to the board they are even moving to be farther from the project. Sergeant resident John Scott and his fiancé decided to sell their home, but Scott voiced concerns a power line near their property would devalue their land.

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“Obviously this project’s going to get pushed through no matter what,” Scott said.

In 2010, the county board approved conditional use permits for three transmission lines and two substations. Then, the Pleasant Valley project stalled. Xcel Energy agreed to buy the wind farm earlier this year, but at a smaller scale. In early October, the board agreed to again be the permitting authority, but it’s now for only one transmission line and one substation.

Officials with Renewable Energy Systems Americas — the company developing and building the wind farm for Xcel — were on hand to update residents about the project and hear concerns.

About a dozen residents attended the public hearing, but only a handful spoke at the meeting. Most voiced concerns about the overhead transmission lines, which will run along either a 5-mile or 8-mile route from the substation at the corner of 640th Avenue and 310th street to connect to Great River Energy Substation near the intersection of 310th Street.

Property owner Jim Risius voiced concerns about the transmission lines crossing the Root River and the wooded area along it.

“It’s the Root River, and they’re going to destroy most of the woods off of it,” he said.

Lonnie Wendt voiced concern about having power lines on both sides of County Road 1, where there’s already an existing line, in case there’s hazardous weather.

“If Mother Nature happens to come through, it’s going to be a bad mess,” he said.

Tina Shafer expressed concerns about reports that high-powered overhead lines causing increased cancer rates.

“Is it going to affect the people and everything around it?” she asked.

If people missed Tuesday’s meeting, they can submit written comments to Mower County Environmental Services, 1105 1/2 Eighth Ave. NE, by 4 p.m. Nov 18. On Nov. 26, the board will accept the scope of the environmental assessment before accepting or rejecting the assessment in December. On Jan. 6, 2014, the state will publish the environmental assessment. 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.

Xcel Energy announced it will buy Pleasant Valley once it’s completed, but the project has undergone a makeover. The original plan called for a 300 MW wind farm of 130 to 180 turbines. The agreement with Xcel calls for a 200 MW wind farm of 100 2 MW turbines over 35,000 acres — 88 in Mower County and 12 in Dodge County.