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Scale of wind project questioned in newsletter article

RED WING — A 78-megawatt wind-power project proposed for Goodhue County that has been trying to get a state permit since late 2008 has been stalled by organized and determined local residents who have spent six figures fighting it.

State Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, also has long maintained that the industry itself doesn't support the AWA Goodhue project and that advocates of wind power have told him privately that they wish the project "would just go away." None has been willing to speak on the record.

Until now.

Dan Juhl, president and founder of Juhl Wind, spoke out on the matter last month in a national newsletter called North American Windpower, which ran a three-page article on the situation in Minnesota. Juhl Wind has created small wind projects throughout the Midwest, including sites in Dodge Center, Lewiston and Altura.

"The spots in Minnesota where you can put big wind (projects) are gone," Juhl told the national publication. "When a developer tries to force a project into a more populated area, that's when you get a project like (AWA) Goodhue. But we're also seeing that in a lot of other states.


"It's becoming more selective and harder to do. You have to be really good at picking places where you can blend into the transmission system in places where there are adequate wind resources and in a community that's accepting of a wind project."

National Wind, which is developing the 32,000-acre, 48-turbine project near Zumbrota, did not return calls from the P-B seeking comment on Juhl's statements. It also didn't comment for the North American Windpower article.

AWA Goodhue officials have said that the project has more than 200 local participants, but it began filing lawsuits last week against some who have tried to void their contracts. Goodhue Wind Truth and the Coalition for Sensible Siting, two citizen groups, have fought the project. The county enacted a new wind-power ordinance that's among the most stringent in the state.

National Wind says the construction process would require a work force of 150 and bring $4 million to local subcontractors and suppliers. It would disperse approximately $20 million to participants over the life of the project, which is 20 years.

However, critics contend that Goodhue County is the most populated county in the state to have an industrial-size wind project proposed. Kelly and state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, have testified before before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission against the state's "cookie-cutter approach" to permitting.

Kelly says he's glad to finally see some "self-policing."

"I think it's encouraging for the wind industry itself," Kelly said. "I think it's responsible to do (what Juhl did). I think in any industry, when you have someone doing things how the rest of the industry would not like to see things done, some sort of self-policing would be good.

"You don't want one bad group to give the whole industry a black eye. That's the worst thing that could happen for them."

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