The developers of a controversial wind energy project in Goodhue County are offering some 200 residents $10,750 each as a financial incentive to having wind turbines placed near their properties.
The offer from AWA Goodhue LLC went out to residents who had not previously signed agreements to participate in the 78-megawatt Goodhue Wind project, which calls for 50 turbines built on 32,700 acres in southeastern Minnesota in and around Belle Creek and Mineola townships.
Before the offer, about 200 landowners agreed to have the towering turbines on their property for a fee. But the project has been battered for years by vocal opponents whose properties are near the proposed turbine locations.
While supporters say the wind farm will help utilities meet state mandates for renewable energy and boost the local economy, opponents object to possible ill effects caused by seeing the strobe-like shadows of the rotating blades. The opponents also say the turbines might disrupt or kill bald and golden eagles as well as bats nesting in the area.
In approving the project in late May, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission directed the developers to make a good-faith effort to reach out to disaffected residents to enable them to participate, said Joe Jennings, spokesman for National Wind, a Minneapolis wind development company that is managing the project with AWA Goodhue and has a small stake in the project.
The residents who take up the offer must agree not to contestthe turbine setback established by the PUC. The PUC said turbines must be at least six rotor-blade diameters or roughly a third of a mile from the property line of a nonparticipating landowner.
The PUC rejected a more stringent requirement set by the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners, which ordered wind turbines be at least a half-mile or 10 rotor- blade diameters from the property of a resident who is not participating.
"By bringing in more participants, AWA Goodhue is offering to share an additional $2 million of project benefits to the immediate vicinity," the developers said in an open letter published in a Goodhue County newspaper. The project's price tag before the offer was $180 million.
National Wind would not comment Monday on whether anyone has accepted the offer. Construction of the project must get under way this year in order to benefit from expiring federal tax credits for renewable energy, Jennings said.
AWA Goodhue was formed by Mesa Power Group, founded by billionaire T. Boone Pickens of Texas, who has supported wind energy projects but made much of his fortune in oil. Pickens' name has been a lightning rod for local criticism about the project.