Guest Column: Honesty, transparency goals for wind officials

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, June 22, 2017

By Dan Litchfield

Dan Litchfield is the senior manager of project development for Invenergy.

More and more, harvesting wind energy is the best way to maximize farm productivity and create economic opportunity for communities in America’s heartland. The Freeborn Wind Farm has just met a major milestone of filing a Minnesota site permit application with the Public Utilities Commission. The project would create up to $1.4 million per year in new local tax revenue, $1.8 million in new landowner revenue and approximately 10 new permanent jobs — all from less than 100 acres of farmland that will allow farmers to diversify their income as insurance against low crop prices.

Dan Litchfield

The Freeborn Wind Farm will generate clean and affordable wind electricity for Xcel Energy’s customers across Minnesota. The 42 turbines planned in Freeborn County alone would offset between 4.5 and 11 million tons of carbon dioxide over a 30-year period, and eliminate thousands of tons of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide.

As the project developer, what’s equally important to Invenergy is ensuring the project exists in harmony with all our neighbors. Wind energy projects are big investments, and it is in our interest to make sure we have good relationships with our project host communities and that we address any concerns. In fact, our permit application totals nearly 1,500 pages and thoroughly addresses the concerns some have voiced.

For example, the report confirms that for 99.7 percent of the year, the wind turbines will not cause any issues with shadow flicker for adjacent homes. Of the 8,760 hours in a year, there may be 30 total hours during certain times of the year when the sun is low on the horizon and could potentially cause brief instances of shadow flicker. We have generated calendars for when this could potentially occur, and we are making them available to any adjacent landowner who requests them.

The wind project will also be very quiet, and under many conditions the sound will be undetectable. Sound levels are limited to 50 decibels at night, and all non-participating homes are expected to be 47 decibels or less. To provide some context, these maximum noise levels are comparable to the sound of a dishwasher, and the project will usually be even quieter.

As a company, it is our standard to work with state and federal agencies to site, build and operate all of our facilities responsibly, and that includes the protection of local wildlife. Accordingly, we have done extensive research on wildlife activity in the area and carefully designed the project to minimize potential impacts, agreeing with every recommendation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to reshape the project boundary specifically to avoid certain areas with increased wildlife activity.

Lastly, Freeborn Wind Farm and its 42 planned wind turbines in Freeborn County are being designed for maximum safety through a strict regulatory review process. For example, Minnesota law and Freeborn County ordinance have setback requirements to ensure turbines are sited at a safe distance from any nearby structures. Freeborn County’s ordinance requires setbacks from homes of at least 1,000 feet, which we are exceeding in every case. In fact, the average distance between project turbines and nearest homes is 1,900 feet.

We welcome the opportunity to have open conversations with anyone interested in learning more about the Freeborn Wind Farm. We strive to provide honesty, integrity and transparency and we are grateful for the positive relationships we have established with the residents of this community. And we are committed to working with Freeborn County and Shell Rock, London, Oakland and Hayward Townships to maximize the benefits of this project for the area.