Views on proposed wind farm expressed at meeting

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, December 21, 2017

Supporters and detractors of the proposed Freeborn Wind Farm in southeast Freeborn County shared their thoughts on the project Tuesday during a state public information meeting at Riverland Community College.

The meeting was regarding the approximately 7-mile, 161-kilovolt transmission line for the wind farm project.

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The meeting comes as divisions continue 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.

Invenergy is expected to develop the project and then Xcel Energy will take over the building for the project and operate it.

During the meeting, Freeborn County resident John Forman said the transmission line and overall wind farm project could have a positive economic impact on the community and be environmentally-friendly.

Former wind farm developer Dan Moore said he helped develop a wind farm near Blue Earth and “regrets every single minute of it.”

Moore and Carol Overland of the Association of Freeborn County landowners questioned why the Public Utilities Commission would grant a power line route permit before a project site permit was approved.

“We’ve got it backwards,” Moore said.

The proposed project is in contested case proceedings.

Marjorie Hamersly, a landowner in the area of the proposed wind farm, said she supported the construction of the wind farm and expressed support for how Invenergy has approached the process.

Detractors of the plan cited the possible environmental impacts of the project for birds, bats and eagles and expressed concern that non-participating landowners in the path of the wind farm would possibly be affected by the project.

“Let’s not destroy nature to supposedly save nature,” said Dorene Hansen.

At one point in the meeting, detractors of the plan and Dan Litchfield, senior manager of business development with Invenergy, disagreed over whether there was an active eagle nest in the route of the proposed wind farm.

Detractors of the plan indicated they thought Litchfield had not been honest in describing the proposed project.

Local resident Judy OIson read a statement from another couple expressing concern they would be involved in the project despite not agreeing to have a transmission line on their property.   

Litchfield said the transmission line was not on their property.

Freeborn County resident Lioba Forman said she supported constructing the transmission line and thanked the Public Utilities Commission for conducting needed research and listening to both sides of the issue.

During a presentation at the beginning of the meeting, Litchfield said the project will bring a renewable, stable, low-cost source of energy to Freeborn County while bringing tax revenue and $127 million in customer savings per year.

The project is under contract with Xcel Energy for construction in 2020.

Alternatives routes for the transmission line must accompany a detailed explanation of the necessity of changing the route, along with the anticipated impact expected to be negated by changing the route.

Freeborn County resident Alli Olson expressed her disagreement with the project and at one point directly addressed Litchfield, stating he was not listening to what she said.

To Olson, one of the reasons the project should be rejected is because Invenergy does not have all of the land needed for the project.

The public comment period regarding the transmission line is expected to close Jan. 3. To comment, community members can mail statements or fax comments to Energy Environmental Review & Analysis staff at 651-539-0109.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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