Minnesota regulators approve Goodhue wind permit

By Dan Haugen and Ken Paulman
Video by Chuck Olson for The UpTake

ST. PAUL–The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved a certificate of need and a conditional site permit for a controversial wind farm project on Thursday.

AWA Goodhue, a subsidiary of T. Boone Pickens’ Mesa Power Group, is seeking to build a $179 million, 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County. The developer has encountered opposition from a group of local residents, as well as county and township officials, who have passed strict wind setback rules.

The PUC forged a compromise between the two interests, by granting a site permit with amendments requiring a “good faith effort” to comply with the county ordinance, and imposing a setback of six rotor diameters, or 1,626 feet, from non-participating property owners. Other amendments require the developer to mitigate shadow flicker for affected properties and incorporate additional findings related to possible wildlife impacts.

The original plan for the project was based on a maximum setback of 1,500 feet, while the Goodhue County ordinance would have required a setback of 10 rotor diameters, or nearly half a mile.

Opponents of the project have been raising a wide spectrum of concerns, including noise levels, stray voltage, shadow flicker and wildlife impact.

“Our ordinance is clearly not arbitrary and capricious,” Goodhue County Attorney Steve Betcher told the commission Thursday. As evidence, he cited the more than 5,000 pages of procedural record developed by the county board before it approved the policy in October.

An attorney for the developer, Christy Brusven, in her testimony also emphasized the volume of testimony that’s been generated during the debate. She called it “the most comprehensive record ever compiled for a Minnesota wind farm.”

Brusven said AWA Goodhue has gone above and beyond in its proposed setbacks and outreach to the community. “It’s time to approve this project,” she concluded.

6 thoughts on “Minnesota regulators approve Goodhue wind permit

  1. What was seen yesterday was complete incompetence of PUC commissioners and EFP staff. The commissioners have clearly not been briefed on the complaints coming from the newer wind developments. EFP staff should be embarrassed at the lack of basic knowledge they demonstrated. It clearly shows that no matter what documented facts are brought up by citizens, the EFP and commissioners will ignore them. This project will be in the news for years to come. It will put a black eye on the PUC and ultimatly Xcel Energy.

  2. Farwell Democracy

    I witnessed a death on 6/30/11 as the MN Public Utilities Commission, merrily gutted & filleted democracy and left it bleeding on the PUC floor.Commissioner O”Brian skillfully maneuvered Commissioner Anderson like a pawn in a chess game. Perhaps they were playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” Regardless the effect was the same. The MNPUC gave a Big Finger in the face to Goodhue County. How dare they write an ordinance on wind development. You have the right to do that, but we will squash it! A Big Finger in the face to the people of Goodhue County for daring to ask its local government for help. You will have NO LOCAL CONTROL! A Big Finger in the face to your Legislators. They can’t help you either. The message is: Business is Open in Goodhue County! Have at her. Stake Your Claim. Cover that county with industrial turbines. Those people can squawk but we will silence them! The MN Public Utilities Commission does not operate under a democracy.

  3. This project was permitted as a Minnesota renewable energy project. Yet AWA Goodhue does not have a valid C-Bed resolution of Support for AWA Goodhue Wind. 99 per cent of the C-bed benefits will go to an out of state entity. AWA Goodhue is owned by T. Boone Pickens. This is a 200 million dollar project. This means that local Minnesota Rate payer will pay T. Boone Pickens nearly 70 million dollars.

  4. We have polluted our land. We have polluted our water. We have polluted our air. We have polluted space with satellites that allow us to exploit and pollute the rest of the world. (And we’re hated for it) The PUC findings in this case lay bare the fact that we now have a polluted process that will allow us to pollute our landscape. Remarkably, little of the pollution we have forced upon the planet came about as the result of “Need”. This case is no exception. Over and over the PUC reminded themselves, the applicant and the audience, that we DO NOT NEED this project to meet the Renewable Energy Mandate but wealthy and greedy individuals with expensive lawyers and millions of lobbying dollars WANT this project so the PUC, OES and EFP will oblige. The images of the American bald eagle are moving and stunning. Clearly we learned nothing from the past and are willing to endanger them again – through stupidity borne of greed. The image of a bald eagle being struck to the ground by a LWECS blade is a fitting symbol of the contempt and disrespect the government has come to show it’s people. When we wanted the resources under the ground inhabited by the Native Americans we drove buffalo off cliffs to starve the people off of their land. It was only a matter of time before the government allowed the same to be done to us – the “approved” inhabitants of this land. Christine Brusven, Todd Guerrero, Mark Ward, T. Boone Pickens…..may momentarily feel like they won, but the truth is that the PUC decision made losers of us all.

  5. The MPUC’s decision on June 30, 2011, to grant a site permit to the AWA Goodhue Wind Project in Goodhue County (MN) is despicable. How can a project that will generate 78 mw of electricity (so the developers say) that the MPUC definitively stated was not a necessary project to meet the MN state mandate be granted a site permit when Goodhue Co. has clearly spent much time and effort on a good county wind ordinance. The MPUC does NOT have permitting standards that cover wind projects greater than 25 MW. The only reason the site permit was granted was to make the wind developers happy.

    We have people in high places with lots of power. At the end of the day, they go home and can live with their decisions that affect people in far away places and sleep well at night.

    Wind turbines in MN will now take away our personal land rights, our beautiful countryside, our majestic wildlife, our rural serenity, and our good night’s sleep.

    Wake up, Minnesotans!!

  6. Ellen Anderson as chair of the PUC said I don’t know too many times during this hearing. It was obvious that she should not be chairing the PUC. Then to be in the position of inposing legislation that she authored on innocent citizens and what was her basis for good cause? If she found good cause to ignore a legal county ordinance what was it other than she did not like the ten rotor setback applied to this project?