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County board gives go-ahead for new wind turbine project

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a conditional use permit for REG Juhl Glenville Wind LLC for a 2.5-megawatt wind turbine northwest of the REG biodiesel production facility near Glenville.

The $4.75 million project came before the county planning commission Aug. 3 with unanimous recommendation for approval, said Trevor Bordelon with the county’s Environmental Services Department. The project also received letters of support from the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, the city of Glenville and Freeman Township.

The turbine will have an 80 meter hub height and 116 meter rotor diameter and will be about 2,600 feet from the REG property on land that was formerly owned by Exol and is now owned by Commissioner Jim Nelson and his wife, Mary. A portion of the property will be leased from them for the project, and energy will be transmitted through an underground electrical line directly to the REG plant.

Kent Hartwig, director of corporate affairs for REG, said the turbine will be approximately 3,000 feet from the home to the northeast and approximately 3,300 feet from the two homes to the south.

He said because of the thorough evaluation process, the complete nature of the preliminary studies and the goal of locating the turbine as far from homes and as close to the plant as feasible, the location has remained nearly unchanged since first proposed.

The location was selected to achieve the lowest levels of sound, shadow flicker and the greatest separation distances from homes, roads, rail lines, and private and public drainage systems, the conditional use permit application stated.

Hartwig said REG is pleased with the support it has received for the project and is grateful to Freeman Township, the Freeborn County Board of Adjustment, the Freeborn County Planning Commission and the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners for approving the project and supporting renewable energy generation. He also noted the work of the county’s administrator, attorney, Environmental Services Department and Public Works Department for their work throughout the permit process.

“We look forward to the completion of the project in the coming months and using wind energy to make the biodiesel we produce even greener,” Hartwig said.

Second District Commissioner Dan Belshan asked if there was any possibility for additional turbines in the future.

Mike Powers with REG said the company does not have plans for additional turbines at the site, referencing the proximity to the plant and other homes in the area that would make it difficult to do so.

According to the company timeline, groundbreaking is slated to take place in September with commercial operation by December. Grading and seeding work will take place in the spring.

The company previously stated the project will allow it to harness wind energy for a long-term supply of cleaner and reliable energy and displace a predominantly fossil fuel-based electricity, saving 68,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the first 10 years of the project.

Once the turbine is up and running, the project will also pay the county an estimated $35,000 of wind production taxes over the same timespan.

Nelson abstained from the vote.