Some Considerations re: Walleye Wind Draft Site Permit

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 05/15/2021 - 1:10pm

It’s time to comment on the Walleye Wind Draft Site Permit, and the Certificate of Need too.

There are longstanding problems with siting wind projects — the only statutory guidance for wind siting is:


The legislature declares it to be the policy of the state to site LWECS in an orderly manner compatible with environmental preservation, sustainable development, and the efficient use of resources.

Fat lot of good that does… Rules were mandated, but wind specific siting rules have yet to be promulgated. I’ve been struggling with this for years, 3 rulemaking petitions all denied, lawsuits, even challenging permits at the appellate court… striking out over and over and over and over.


Back to comments. If you’re commenting, be sure to start off labeling the Comment with the docket numbers, PUC Docket IP-7026/WS-20-384 for the Site Permit, and IP-7026/CN-20-269 for the Certificate of Need.

To look up the dockets (one at a time!!), go to “Docket Search” HERE and at “Search” plug in “20” for the year, and either “269” or “384” to get into the docket.

From Docket 20-384, pull up the Draft Site Permit. It’s in the Order, Docket ID 20213-172143-01, dated 3/24/2021. Here it is, separated out from the Order:


Start your comment out by identifying yourself, all contact information, and using the maps below, state your “receptor” number(s) and the turbine numbers that affect you.

Then start wading through the Draft Site Permit.

Page by page, some things that affect people on the ground are, for example, the ability of the developer to change the location of turbines, and just disclose this in the final site plan. See Draft Site Permit Section 3.1, and final site plan Section 10.3. That’s a lot of wiggle room!

Another problematic section, perhaps the most, is Draft Site Permit, Section 4, Setbacks. These should each be addressed separately.

Section 4.1 Wind Access Buffer states”

Wind turbine towers shall not be placed less than five rotor diameters on the prevailing wind directions and three rotor diameters on the non-prevailing wind directions from the perimeter of the property where the Permittee does not hold the wind rights, without the approval of the Commission. This section does not apply to public roads and trails.

Have they complied with this setback? For the 2.32MW turbine, at rotor diameter of 382 feet that means 3x = 1,146 feet and 5x = 1,910. For the 2.82MW turbine with rotor diameter of 417 feet, 3x = 1,251 and 5x = 2,085. That’s the distance required from PROPERTY BOUNDARY of non-participants. Is this happening?

Do ask them to identify where this 3×5 rotor diameter setback comes from! Is it statute? Is it rule? Are they yet again improperly relying on the small wind(under 25MW) Order Establishing General Permit Standards (January 11, 2008)? See Environmental Report, p. 12, 101. This is an application for a LARGE Wind Energy Conversion System, not a small wind project under 25MW.

On to Draft Site Permit, Section 4.2 Residences:

Wind turbine towers shall not be located closer than 1,000 feet from all residences or the distance required to comply with the noise standards pursuant to Minn. R. 7030.0040, established by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), whichever is greater.

Again, where does this “setback” come from? In the Freeborn Wind docket, when we asked Commerce the source of this Draft Site Permit language for the 1,000 foot setback from residences, EERA’s Rich Davis answered:

Next up in the Draft Site Permit setbacks is Section 4.3 Noise:

How is it determined how far the turbines need to be to comply with the noise standard, Minn. R. 7030.0400?? Since they did a “noise study” and drew lines around turbines to delineate various dB levels, shouldn’t a distance accompany these maps? From the maps it is impossible to tell, and the lines are drawn such that it looks like some lines go right through homes, some are up against the line. If this was in google earth, it would be easier to determine distances — if not provided in a chart for turbines and receptors, shouldn’t they have to provide a google earth link, kmz map, or ???

These are the noise maps from Application, Appendix B, Noise, p. 26-27 (click for larger view):

And for a more complicated issue, the noise modeling is GI/GO, using an improper ground factor as a primary assumption. Ground factor is used to address the blockage/interference of noise from a source to the “receptor.” This is important here because modeling with a ground factor, ranging from 0.0 to 1.0, with 0.0 for no interference, and 1.0 for nearly complete blockage of noise, will grossly understate potential noise if it claims a higher ground factor than warranted. Even Hankard, who did noise work on this project, agrees that a ground factor of 0.5 is not appropriate for an elevated source such as a wind turbine:

Dr. Schomer, who was part of committee that developed the ISO 9613-2 noise modeling standard had an even more specific explanation, this from another wind docket. See pps. 11-25:


This explains graphically why the 0.5 ground factor used for the Walleye Wind and other wind projects is inappropriate for an elevated source:

The danger of use of an improper ground factor that understates potential for noise is evident in the Commission’s Blazing Star wind docket (IP-6961/WS-16-686), where multiple landowners are suffering from high noise levels, unable to sleep at night, unable to use and enjoy their property. From the Compliance Filings, tracking complaints which began when the project was in start-up testing, before commercial operation, and these complaints remain unresolved over a year later:

The next Draft Site Permit Setback issue is Section, 4.4 Roads, repeats the matter of origin of the setback, and more:

FYI, Walleye reduced its setback initial proposal in Application Section 8.12, from “at least 1.1 times the total turbine height from snowmobile trails to minimize the potential for ice throw,” yet changed that to just 250 feet for the Amended Application. WHAT?!?!

At the 2019 Power Plant Siting Act Annual Hearing, the DOT requested the Public Utilities Commission re-evaluate the 250 foot setback from roads. From the ALJ’s Report:

While the Freeborn Wind contested case was in session, an ice throw from a Bent Tree turbine hit a truck as it was traveling on Hwy. 13. Ironically, Bent Tree located immediately northwest from Albert Lea where our hearing was being held. 20182-140446-01_Letter Bent Tree

20182-140446-01_Alliant Letter_Ice Throw Settlement_BentTreeDownload

The Draft Site Permit, Section 4.10 also allows that “If required, up to 20 percent of the towers may be sited closer than the above spacing, but the permitee shall minimize the need to site the turbine towers closer.” WHAT?!?! No restrictions, no requirement of review and approval by Commission, they can just do it if they want to.

Draft Site Permit Section 7.2 does not have any limitation on hours of shadow flicker. Shadow flicker hours predicted are far, far above that typically allowed in permits, but again, there are no rules or standards for siting wind projects, and this is just Commission practice.

Here’s what their modeling predicted, from cover letter to Application Amendment, p. 17:

This is the ENTIRE Walleye Draft Site Permit Section 7.2:

This is the Freeborn Wind Site Permit Section 7.2 Shadow Flicker:

WHAT?!?!?! They’re a long way from 30 hours. Where is the shadow flicker hours limitation?

The Commerce-EERA Environmental Report, p. 13-14, provides a chart with these same siting setbacks and factors, listing “Commission” yet origin not specified — because there is only the SMALL Wind Standards, and none for LARGE wind:


The project’s Amended Application has some oddities too:

Amended-Application_Narrative_202011-168046-02Download Amended-Application_Cover_Changes_202011-168046-01Download

The Public Utilities Commission directed Walleye Wind to produce a clear map, as there were several iterations, and it was difficult to determine what was what:

Here’s the overview MAP – click for larger version:

Here are all the maps provided to the PUC as directed:


Use these maps to determine what “receptor” number you are (I know, it’s a hugely offensive term, do let them know how you feel about that!), and what turbines are nearby. Do your best to determine distance to these turbines.

The PUC’s wind statutes and rules have very little to go on for siting criteria:

However, the Power Plant Siting Act’s siting criteria, to the extent it fits a wind project, does apply. That criteria is found in Minn. Stat. 216E.03, Subd. 7.

For example, it starts out that the Commission needs to consider:

(1) evaluation of research and investigations relating to the effects on land, water and air resources of large electric power generating plants and high-voltage transmission lines and the effects of water and air discharges and electric and magnetic fields resulting from such facilities on public health and welfare, vegetation, animals, materials and aesthetic values, including baseline studies, predictive modeling, and evaluation of new or improved methods for minimizing adverse impacts of water and air discharges and other matters pertaining to the effects of power plants on the water and air environment;

If you have concerns regarding any of these matters, state those concerns, and dig around for studies and research (credible, peer reviewed, not histrionic blather), and cite them in your comment, and attach that study to your comment.

If you have evidence of resources that should be taken into consideration, explain, and attach a map, for instance, regarding “Visual Impacts,” Section 8.5.1, the Amended Application states:

Visual impacts for a Minnesota’s Blue Mounds State Park are considered at 4.3 and 6.7 miles… what about residents and visual impacts that they will view daily?

Visual Impacts for a Minnesota’s Blue Mounds State Park are considered at 4.3 and 6.7 miles… what about Palisades State Park in South Dakota, closer to the center of the project than Blue Mounds State Park?

Categories: Citizens

Amor Fati

Tom Swift - Untethered Dog - Sat, 05/15/2021 - 5:42am

“You have seen all that? Now consider this. Do not disturb yourself; strive to be simple. Someone is doing wrong? The wrong is to himself. Something has happened to you? That is good and well, for all that happens to you from the whole was ordained for you from the beginning and spun to be […]

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Categories: Citizens

May 2021

Tom Swift - Untethered Dog - Sat, 05/15/2021 - 4:04am

15 Saturday When you are forced to look in the mirror. Sadness. Signs of the passage of time. The gray in your dog’s brow. Facing it. Hamburgers with cold cheese. Being outside your house without your phone. 14 Friday Perfect morning and the lilacs in bloom. Fast weeks. The chance to come back. Kind words. […]

The post May 2021 appeared first on Untethered Dog.

Categories: Citizens

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Council to vote on ending Local Emergency Order; Fossum says Rice County crime is up; Home & Garden Show set for tomorrow

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Vaccines may be required for on-campus students next year

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 05/14/2021 - 11:53am

St. Olaf College plans to announce in July if it will require all students without a legally valid medical or religious exemption to be vaccinated before coming back to campus in the fall of 2021. The question of whether or not to require students on college campuses to be vaccinated has become a national debate, with the advice of public health professionals pitted against political positioning. Within the vaccination debate, St. Olaf plans to wait for more colleges to make their decisions and then respond accordingly. 

The American College Health Association has recommended that colleges require returning students for the 2021 — 2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, for St. Olaf College President David Anderson ’74 and the College’s COVID-19 response team there remain questions to be answered before they make a decision. 

“We’ve never really been the college that acted first,” Anderson said. “And we’ve never been the college that acted last. We have a sort of lurking in the tall grass strategy, where we want to have as much information as we can get and then make what we think is the best decision.”

Some of the information Anderson is waiting on includes what other colleges are doing, how many people will be vaccinated and the legal status of the vaccines. 

“Is it even possible to require vaccination?,” Anderson said. COVID-19 vaccinations are currently emergency use authorized, and as such cannot currently be required by institutions. Schools including Carleton and Macalester have released statements of intent to require vaccinations, pending FDA approval. However, even if COVID-19 vaccines gain FDA approval, Anderson and the COVID-19 response team are not sure if the work required to mandate vaccination is worth it. 

The hassle of requiring vaccination, according to Anderson, includes determining what proof of vaccination would be required as well as “what’s gonna happen when we have a bunch of international students coming when there is maybe limited availability in their home country,” Anderson said. 

Carleton College and Macalester College both have a higher percentage of international students than St. Olaf. 

Furthermore, Anderson said “Do we really want to get into a bunch of fights with people who, for reasons good or bad, just don’t want to have the vaccine.” 

“It’s not 100% clear what the benefit is in having 95% of your population vaccinated and a 100% [vaccinated],” Anderson said. “You could say, well it’s 5%. But in practical terms are you that much safer? If you could get to 95% of people voluntarily vaccinating and reporting, then you want to ask the question, is it really worth all of the hassle of requiring it of everybody?”

In a report emailed to students on Thursday, May 13, Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis wrote that “73% of St. Olaf faculty and staff and 70% of students have reported that they are fully vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated.” 

The St. Olaf community has had the opportunity to be vaccinated through a variety of community based vaccine clinics, as well as multiple on-campus clinics. The most recent on-campus clinic had 468 shots that no one signed up for, which were returned to the Northfield Urgent Care clinic. 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic Minnesota college presidents have met frequently, and “obviously [vaccination] has been a topic that’s had a lot of conversation,” Anderson said. 

Currently Carleton and Macalester are the only colleges or universities in Minnesota that have announced that they intend to require vaccinations for the 2021-2022 school year. St. Catherine University and Minnesota State University – Mankato have announced that they do not intend to require COVID vaccinations in the fall at this time.

As for St. Olaf, “We don’t need to make a decision right now,” Anderson said. “We’re waiting to see what other institutions do, we’re waiting to see what the landscape looks like in terms of total vaccination, we’re waiting to see what percentage of our students and other community members have been vaccinated, and we’ll make a decision in time for whatever we decide to do to be carried out.”


Categories: Colleges

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City Council Meeting

City of Northfield Calendar - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 4:07pm
Event date: May 18, 2021
Event Time: 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM
801 Washington Street
Northfield, MN 55057
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3311

Access Code: 360-943-269

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