South Dakota residents oppose Minnesota wind farm proposal

Published 11:00 pm Monday, September 10, 2018

CANBY — A proposed wind farm in southwestern Minnesota is stirring fierce opposition from across the state border less than a mile away in South Dakota’s resident community of Lake Cochrane.

U.K.-based Renewable Energy Systems’ Bitter Root Wind Project calls for raising 44 of the skyscraper-sized machines in Minnesota’s Yellow Medicine County, near the South Dakota border. The turbines are capable of generating 50 percent more energy than the average U.S. turbine.

But the project is facing public opposition from residents of South Dakota’s Lake Cochrane, which sits less than a mile from the Minnesota border. The turbines are an “intrusion” and will interrupt views and produce noise, said resident Ron Ruud.

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“Most of the people on the lake don’t even understand how massive these things are yet,” Ruud said. “We’re starting to show some pictures and they’re going, ‘Holy cow! We had no idea.’ Yeah, it’s shocking.”

The turbines stand at about 570 feet from ground level to blade tip, which is close to the height of a 40-story building. The machines would be the largest ever build in the state, if approved.

“We will do everything we have to do,” Ruud said. “Because it will absolutely destroy Lake Cochrane’s environment. It just doesn’t fit.”

Renewable Energy Systems understands that Lake Cochrane residents weren’t prepared to see turbines built nearby, said Michelle Matthews, project developer for the Bitter Root project.

“We’ve done the best that we can to really minimize the impacts,” she said.

Renewable Energy Systems decided against the turbine site nearest Lake Cochrane, but still hopes to use other turbine sites nearby, Matthews said.

“Some of the landowners that are right in proximity to the lake on the Minnesota side really do want to have these turbines on their property,” she said. “One of them has been working with this project for 10 years. This is his land and this is what he wants to do with it.”