GRANITE FALLS - A large, global energy developer plans to build a 150-megawatt wind farm in western Yellow Medicine County.
RES America applied with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in November to erect 37 turbines to be dispersed over 22,888 acres in an area southwest of Canby and near the South Dakota border. Representatives of RES and its wholly-owned subsidiary for the project, called Flying Cow LLC, outlined the plans to the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday in Granite Falls.
The company is aiming to erect the turbines in 2019 and to begin generating electricity by the year's end.
The project calls for erecting a mix of 3.45-megawatt and 4.2-megawatt turbines. Towers and turbines are expected to stand 568 feet from the tip of the vertical blade to the ground. Underground cables would connect the towers. The electricity they produce will be routed through a substation to be built in neighboring Deuel County, South Dakota, and from there via an above-ground line to connect to the CapX2020 high-voltage (345 kv) transmission line that runs from Brookings, South Dakota, to the Twin Cities area.
While the permitting process is just underway, much of the legwork has been completed. Michelle Matthews, Anne-Marie Criger and Sean Flannery with RES told the commissioners that most of the environmental studies needed for permitting were begun up to two years ago, and are complete or near completion. The company is also completing agreements with landowners in the area for the easements needed.
The project originally was proposed and permitted nearly a decade ago, but the permit was withdrawn in 2009 when the original developer did not undertake it. It called for constructing the towers in both South Dakota and Minnesota.
The project has since been shifted east to place all of the towers in Yellow Medicine County on the Minnesota side of the border.
Deuel County, South Dakota, rejected a permit for erecting the towers there due to their proximity to Lake Cochrane. Deuel County hosts a number of wind turbines, but Matthews said the county wanted to protect the Lake Cochrane area from them.
The footprint for the project in Yellow Medicine County has the turbines dispersed in Florida, Fortier and Norman townships. The closest tower to Lake Cochrane will be 1.7 miles from it, according to Flannery.
RES estimates that the project will generate annual taxes of $690,000 for Yellow Medicine County and the townships where the towers are located.
Property owners providing sites for the towers and non-participating landowners in proximity to the towers will also receive annual payments. The company representatives did not provide an estimate of what those payments would total, but Commissioner John Berends said they could exceed $1 million per year.
The commissioners said they welcome the tax and landowner revenues, but also emphasized that they wanted to assure that turbines are set back a minimum of 1,000 feet from residences, according to the county's renewable energy ordinance.
The project must meet the county's setback requirements. The RES representatives said the footprint for the towers meet it as well as state and federal requirements for setbacks from grasslands and fens in the area.
The overall permit for the project is the responsibility of the Minnesota PUC since it is a large-scale energy project. That's different than in South Dakota, where the county holds permitting authority, according to Matthews.
RES is currently negotiating a power purchase agreement with a utility interested in the power from the farm. Flannery said RES usually develops large wind farms and sells them to the utilities that purchase their power. He said he believes the same will happen with this project.