Blazing Star holds public meeting on new wind farm project

HENDRICKS — About 200 Lincoln County area residents attended the public hearing for Blazing Star Wind Farm 2 in Hendricks Tuesday evening. Many of them offered pros and cons on establishing more turbines in the county.

Katrina Nelsen was one of the first to get up to speak against the additional turbines. Flicker and sound affects that create health hazards were just some of the features of which she was opposed. The possibility of falling market values on her property was also a concern, she said.

One rural Ivanhoe resident tends to enjoy the blinking red lights of the current wind farms in his area.

Last summer IEA (International Energy Agency) Renewable Energy, LLC started building the Red Pine Wind Power, LLC Wind Farm, which boasts a 200 megawatt wind farm for EDF Renewable Energy of Minneapolis, near Ivanhoe, Wilno and Arco. The project was completed in December.

“I think they look like Christmas tree lights,” Bud Fehrman said. “They are a welcoming sight as we come home at night.”

On the other hand, another farmer from Ivanhoe was very concerned about the effect on wildlife and the effect of the blinking red lights on the turbine that ward off airplanes at night.

Curtis Mulder said other people do not care for the blinking red lights. New technology has been developed that would only turn on the airplane alert lights if there was a plane in the vicinity.

“Our farm will be surrounded by blinking red lights, Mulder said. “Hunting will change. I’m going to do what I can to get rid of the blinking red lights.”

In another state, they were trying a new light system, Mulder said.

“They discovered that the lights remained off for 90 percent of the year,” Mulder said.

Mulder recommended Blazing Star look into this resolution, but Patrick Smith of Geronimo Energy Star said the technology had not been available at the time the contract was signed and therefore was not included.

“I’m going to do what I can to get rid of the blinking red lights,” Mulder said. “Do you know about the bald eagle’s nest on the shore of Lake Shaokatan?”

Smith said he was aware of the eagle’s nest. Blazing Star and IEF Energy were also aware of the eagle. Smith said the company would not be constructing a turbine too close to the lake.

Louise Miltech of the Minnesota Department of Commerce and energy research group explained that the energy company does a thorough study of the area before deciding to proceed. How the turbines will affect human life, wildlife and the environment is all taken into account, she said.

Area resident Jim Nichols issued an invitation for any interested party to visit his turbine. Nichols’ turbine is only a 1 1/2 megawatt version, but it was the biggest in the territory when it was first constructed, he said.

Nichols said that he can even be working outside and not hear the turbine doing its own duty. He thinks they’re a great way to bring more revenue into the community.

“It’s income potential for us farmers,” Nichols said, “if we’re lucky enough to get one. To get one is pretty dramatic. It is value-based on production and taxed on production.”

Two other men from the area got up to say that they had worked for the previous wind energy company and found it to be a good way to make a living and to generate more revenue for the community.

An Elkton, South Dakota, farmer with turbines on two farms had come to the Blazing Star Farm 2 public hearing. He wasn’t as excited as Nichols.

Henning Hansen said that he had declined a third turbine.

“I have land in Lincoln County, but I didn’t sign up for a turbine,” Hansen said.

They do provide alternative income, he said, but he wasn’t as impressed as some people are.

Associated with this facility, but not part of the wind site permit application, is an approximately 7-mile 115-kilovolt high voltage transmission line and an approximately 1,000-foot, 345-kv HVTL that would connect to XCel Energies transmission lines, said Trisha DeBleechere, PUC staff analyst with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

The HVTL was a separate process, but would also require a public hearing, she said.

The proposed project footprint would occupy approximately 57,800 acres of land located in Diamond Lake, Drammen, Ash Lake, Shaokatan, Royal, Hendricks and Marble townships in Lincoln County, the speakers said.

The application for the project was deemed complete by the PUC on Jan. 14, after it had been received on had been received in November 2017.

“We just needed to hold this public information meeting,” DeBleechere said.

He also said the comments from the hearing will be forwarded to a Minnesota law judge.

Concerned residents can also go to http://mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities/#comment — for others to visit and record their own comments or they could visit with the speakers and other company representatives that evening to express their concerns.

Comments can also be faxed to 651-539-0109.

More information can be obtained at https://mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities/Docket.html?Id=34757.

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