Amended wind energy ordinance recommended to commissioners

Turner County Planning and Zoning board members Steve Schmeichel and Dean Austin review the wind energy maps during the recent night meeting. The maps showed each landowner’s location where wind turbines could be placed in the future. (Photo/Dawn Rye)

Dawn Rye | Writer

During last week’s Turner County planning and zoning meeting, a motion was made to recommend the amended wind energy ordinance to commissioners.

Orion Renewable Energy Project Development Manager Michael Kurnik produced maps for the board to visualize, the land that is considered part of the projects. He explained it would also help visualize what the setbacks would be and what the implications would be to the landowners that expressed interest in the project.

Kurnik said the land development is clear from the 1.25 times property height setbacks and 1500 feet from houses. He noted the benefit to the county would be the nameplate capacity and production tax. He explained the nameplate capacity is equivalent to $3.00 per kilowatt. They are estimating 300 megawatts per interconnection request as a whole. He said the $900,000.00 would be split between the counties where the turbines are placed. With the production tax, the state tax rate is .45 cents per megawatt-hour that are produced by the wind farms. With a rough capacity, they estimate about $530,000.00 per year within Turner County and the county would receive 20 percent. He noted the state also determines how that money is split. With 50 percent to the school districts, 35 percent to counties and 15 percent to organized townships. Kurnik said for argument purposes the county would see $500,000.00 shared with school districts that include Freeman and Viborg-Hurley being the main beneficiaries. Directly, the county would receive $350,000 each year and $150,000 to organized townships. Kurnik commented that Orion feels it strikes a balance between setbacks and having boundaries with clear guidelines.

Board member Steve Schmeichel asked how much does each turbine cost?

Kurnik said with the turbines and the associated infrastructure about $2 million to $2.5 million each.

Chairman Eric Meyer asked SECOG (Southeastern Council of Government) Patrick Andrews, planner, if the ordinance has the definition of commenced?

He explained the word commenced is defined in the amended ordinance. The word commenced is listed as work is deemed to have commenced when the designated percentage of the value of the building permit has been expended into the actual physical construction of the building, structure, or project.

Meyer said he feels the ordinance is a good balance. He noted it is hard to find information on the Internet that is not biased.

Board member Tony Ciampa asked how many jobs would Orion be creating?

Kurnik said 200-250 construction jobs for a six to12 month period and 10-15 permanent staff members for the life of the project.

State’s Attorney Katelynn Hoffman suggested to the six board members that if they were going to entertain a motion, it must be stated clearly to the public, which members are voting.

Meyer said the reason there are six members at the meeting is that he was unaware if he was going to make it back from his job location.

Spring Valley landowner Nick Lease noted every time he made a public comment it was based on setbacks. In the January and March meetings, he feels the setback is in favor of the participating landowners.

“I don’t believe that your setbacks are great now,” said Lease.

He continued, “This isn’t a sprint, it is a marathon and right now we are getting set up for a marathon.”

Juanita O’Gorman said they live out near Turkey Ridge and she feels the setback is too short. She noted when this idea first started they were told the towers were going to be 200 feet tall, however, now they are 500 feet tall.

“I don’t want them that close to my house and the 1.5 setback is just to close. We own property out there that is only a quarter-mile wide. You can put them on each side of my house,” exclaimed Gorman.

A motion was made to close public comment before board members Schmeichel, Ciampa, Richard Vasgaard and Meyer discussed their decision.

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