Pleasant Valley wind project gets OK for Mower, Dodge counties

AUSTIN — The Pleasant Valley wind-energy company on Tuesday received the final two permits it needs to build a 200-megawatt project in northern Mower and southern Dodge counties.

The Mower County Board unanimously approved conditional use permits for RES America Development Inc. to build a substation near Sargeant and also a 4.95-mile 161-KV line from that to a bigger substation. The company, once it completes it, will sell the wind farm to Xcel Energy, which has been expanding how much electricity it gets from renewable energy.

The state has also given its approval, said Sean Flannery, RES permitting specialist. The only thing remaining before beginning work in May is to have some meetings to work on some details. But the key permits, after Tuesday's board action, are in hand, he said.

"We're excited to be at this point," he said.

The project, which will have 100 wind turbines, is expected to be done in October 2015.


At the board meeting, Tina Shafer, who lives in the area, protested both parts of the project, as she has in the past.

She said the substation will be too noisy for Dan and Kathy Blanchard, who will live 1,000 feet away. It will also hurt their property values and ruin their enjoyment of their home. Power lines have been shown to cause cancer in some studies, she said.

In reply, Justin Markel, RES development manager, said the company has moved the substation as far away as it can on the land it has. He said the company is willing to submit a written plan to screen the Blanchards from the sight and noise of the substation. Completing that plan was one of the conditions of the board's approval Tuesday.

He emphasized that the project will pump $750,000 into the county and township coffers. Also, an environmental assessment that looked at the noise, visual and health issues was done and approved, he said.

Flannery said experts have done computer modeling of noise and found the levels will be within standards before they reach the Blanchards.

The board listened to Shafer but her objections didn't stop them. "There is nothing new there that I can see that will stop us from going ahead with the project," said Commissioner Jerry Reinartz.

Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said he understands that people might not want to live by a substation or power lines.

"I feel bad about that," he said. "The thing is, with the testing and engineering that has been done, I think we don't have much choice but to approve it."

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