Spring Creek Wind project: open microphone statement, November 29 Planning Commission meeting

When you only have three minutes, you gotta be succinct. For the record:

RENew Northfield statement of support for the proposed

Carleton and Spring Creek Wind Projects

November 29, 2010

Bruce Anderson, 501 St. Olaf Avenue (commenting on behalf of the board of RENew Northfield)

Members of the Planning Commission: the wind proposals before you tonight offer you the chance to act on the City of Northfield’s declared support for, and desire to attract, green businesses.

Your primary concern, no doubt, is whether the proposed projects are compatible with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and land use regulations. I believe they both are. While both of these projects are within the City’s Urban Reserve District, there is no realistic scenario in which development would be negatively affected by the presence of these turbines over their expected 20- to 30-year life spans. Wind energy is generally deemed compatible with agricultural land use, and development of these projects would help the landowners maintain this land use. Facilitating development of local clean energy production facilities, where appropriate, is surely in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan’s call for “promoting an ethic of sustainability in all city activities” and “preserv(ing) agricultural resources.”

The installation of these turbines would generate significant local economic activity, and the economic benefits to the landowners will have a long-term positive impact on their ability to continue farming their land profitably.

The environmental benefits of these projects are huge. They would jointly provide about six percent of the electricity consumed locally while reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking about 2,000 cars off the road every year, or reducing residential energy use locally by almost 20%.

The community has had an overwhelmingly positive experience with wind energy to date. The two existing turbines have been embraced by the community as symbols of our commitment to environmentally responsible development. The three turbines in question are similar to these turbines in terms of size and proximity to residential neighbors and city limits. I am unaware of any major objections to the operations of these turbines from nearby neighbors, or any reported ill health effects. The St. Olaf turbine is sited close to thousands of students, staff and faculty, as well as being as close to several dozen homes along Highway 19 as the closest handful of neighbors would be to the proposed new turbines.

Claimed health effects from wind turbine noise are far from a matter of settled science. There is nothing approaching scientific consensus on these claimed effects. In the unlikely event that there is ever a sound scientific basis supporting the claimed health effects, it would then and only then be appropriate for Rice County to review and revise its wind energy ordinance.

We all expect the lights to come on when we flip the switch, and for beer to come out of the fridge cold. Our power has to come from somewhere. The Prairie Island Mdewakanton community is as close to the Prairie Island nuclear power plant as the nearest neighbors would be to these projects. Residents of Becker, Minnesota live less than a mile away from the state’s biggest coal-fired power plant. Surely it is only fair that we do our part and live with relatively benign wind turbines in our midst.

Putting up roadblocks to development of these projects could only have a negative effect on the City’s oft-repeated desire to project an image of being business-friendly. This is a golden opportunity to do the right thing and facilitate the kind of clean energy development that will benefit the community in the long run.

Thank you.

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