Officials in Goodhue County are asking the state to take another look at a permit that has been issued for a $179 million wind farm in their community.

The site permit, approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and issued on Aug. 23, was intended to serve as a compromise between the company behind the project, AWA Goodhue, and local officials who are calling for strict setback requirements.

But Ted Seifert, the chairman of the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners, said local officials are asking the state to reconsider the permit because it runs counter to setback requirements set by the county.

The Goodhue County ordinance requires turbines to be located more than a half-mile from non-participating property owners. The state permit says the company should make a “good faith” effort to meet that requirement, but allows turbines to be located six rotor diameters, or 1,626 feet, from non-participating property owners.

The original plan for the project was based on a maximum setback of 1,500 feet, and Goodhue officials have argued that as many as 35 of the 50 wind turbines they want to place within the 32,000-acre footprint may not meet the county standards.

“We have a county ordinance and we’d appreciate if they’d follow it,” Seifert said by phone on Wednesday. “It’s a local ordinance to satisfy local needs, and I don’t know that the state necessarily understands that.”

Seifert said commissioners voted 4 to 1 in favor of filing a petition with the PUC at their meeting on Tuesday evening. Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel was the lone vote against the move, he said.

PUC spokesman Dan Wolf said the state had yet to receive the county’s petition so it remains unclear how or when their grievance will be resolved. If the county’s claims are accepted, however, AWA Goodhue will have ten days to respond and the PUC could take action before the end of October, Wolf said.

Joe Jennings, a spokesman for National Wind, the company behind AWA Goodhue, declined to comment on the county’s move except to say that the company will “post an update on the PUC docket at the appropriate time.”

AWA Goodhue officials have previously said that they would like to begin construction on the 78 megawatt wind farm by the end of the year. After the PUC ruling in late June, the company made a renewed effort to involve local residents in the project.

Seifert said he has “no idea” if any non-participating residents have agreed to participate since that time. He also said that he is unconcerned about the company’s timeline, even though a federal tax credit for wind energy producers is set to expire at the end of 2012 unless Congress acts to extend it.

The tax credit is seen as an important component to financing new wind developments, and industry officials are lobbying to have it extended before the end of the year.

Photo from Wastedo, Goodhue County by Mulad  via Creative Commons.

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