Nearly 470 sign wind farm petition

Published 8:24 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Residents show opposition to project

Nearly 470 people have reportedly signed a petition expressing their opposition to the proposed Freeborn Wind Farm project in southeast Freeborn County.

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Representing the Association of Freeborn County Landowners, Doreen Hanson presented the petition Tuesday to the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners.

Hanson said landowners and residents expressed their opposition to the project based on concerns regarding electromagnetic currents, noise, light flicker, possible loss of on-air signals and other possible impacts from the turbines.

“Our objective is to see the rules followed in the proceedings and not just the steps,” Hanson said. “The importance of local control, of respecting local ordinances that have been enacted and respecting local preferences and sightings vital for the protection of public health and safety.”

The presentation of the petition came after continued division over the project, which includes the construction of 100 wind turbines in Freeborn County and Iowa, including 42 in Minnesota. Turbines are expected to be in London, Shell Rock, Hayward and Oakland townships, with the remaining balance planned for Iowa.

After the meeting, District 1 Commissioner Glen Mathiason described himself as a supporter of wind energy. He expressed support for landowners who view wind energy as their third income, noting the form of energy provides extra revenue for Freeborn County.

Commissioners Mike Lee and Dan Belshan stated their desire for minimum setbacks for wind turbines in Minnesota to match the 1,500-foot minimum setback for Iowa wind turbines in the project.

Mathiason said the 1,500 feet standard has a “very minimal impact” in Freeborn County because there are not a lot of planned wind turbines that fall within that distance.

Mathiason said he will continue to work with opponents of the plan but favors the project, calling wind energy a “viable” generation of power for Freeborn County and the United States.

Hanson and a few other people have attended Public Utilities Commission meetings in St. Paul since a nearly six-hour public information meeting in September at Riverland Community College.

Another public information meeting is planned Jan. 29 in Albert Lea and evidentiary hearings are Feb. 6 and Feb. 7.   

Hanson requested the board take steps to support the landowners, including enforcing the shadow flicker ordinance in Freeborn County and continuing support of increasing the minimum setback allowance to 1,500 feet.

“Non-participants should not be without a voice,” she said. “We bought and maintained homes in the townships of Shell Rock, London, Hayward and Oakland. We bought homes in a rural setting and love it here. We love the quiet; turbines are not conducive to quiet. We love the dark, starry nights; red flashing lights are not stars. We love our unobstructed sunrise and sunset — good sleep for good health.

“We love our quality of life. The residents of the projects have businesses, businesses that could be adversely affected. This is a case of a nuisance coming to us. We did not buy homes in an industrial park, and we should not have to live in an industrial park after choosing a rural area for our lives and our homes.”

After the meeting, Judy Olson, who lives in the path of the proposed project, said she initially objected to the project because of aesthetic concerns and has since become aware of possible health effects of placing wind turbines near homes, strengthening her opposition.

“That’s my objection,” she said.

Olson expressed support for commissioners supporting those who are against the project in front of the Public Utilities Commission and request the project not be approved.

State approval is needed for the project to unfold.

Mariah Lynne, a local consultant for Invenergy, the wind farm developer, said the company will attend the next commissioners meeting Dec. 12 to update the board and the public on the project.

She said there is “misinformation” regarding the project, noting the project, which is undergoing a contested case proceeding, will allow them to build a “robust, complete case.”

“We see that as very valuable because there is a lot of misinformation in the community,” she said.

Lynne said she “foresees” the project being approved by the PUC because of Invenergy’s following of state and local regulations.

She said there is not a 1,500-foot required minimum setback in Iowa, noting the differences between setbacks in the two states can be attributed to a more stringent regulatory process in Minnesota.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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