ST. PETER - After more than two hours of discussion Monday night, the Nicollet County Planning and Zoning Advisory Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit for the New Ulm Public Utilities to erect a 198-foot meteorological (met) tower several miles southwest of Lafayette.
The resolution came on a 49-11 criteria vote with 13 conditions.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of which was the final one, that a wind turbine project could not be approved until 10 months after the met tower is collecting data.
The first nine months of met tower data must be sent to the Nicollet County Environmental Services Office.
Commissioner Tim Waibel had reservations about the met tower and wind turbine project that could follow.
"I seriously believe you're seriously impacting the lives of many people here," he told NUPU.
In their Findings of Fact criteria votes on 10 questions, Commissioners voted 4-2 that given the nature of the land, the requested use was not compatible with the general welfare, public health and safety, the surrounding area and will depreciate nearby properties.
Commissioner Jim Gleisner abstained since NUPU Director Gary Gleisner is his brother.
Nicollet County resident Nancy Reinhart said she was concerned about taxes, land values and health.
"Setbacks are being re-written after residents suffered from many health issues," Reinhart said.
Jeff Franta and Clete Goblirsch gave a detailed Powerpoint presentation on wind turbine shadow effects (light flicker) caused by blades moving between the sun or moon and nearby residences and other issues.
"It's like turning a light switch on and off. We need responsible (wind turbine) setback parameters," Franta said.
Pat Wrase, NUPU Engineer, said the Nicollet County wind turbine setback was 750 feet while the state requirement was 500 feet.
Kim Reinhart said wind turbine health affects included chronic sleep disturbance, depression, vertigo, nausea and more seizures for people so afflicted.
Others at the meeting talked about livestock issues including stray voltage, cancer, low milk production and still births.
Wrase said the met tower was needed for more data to determine if the site near Lafayette would provide enough wind for turbines to be productive.
"All we're asking for is a met tower permit. Wind turbines would have to go through another permit process. We'd be willing to do a flicker analysis," Wrase said.
Gary Gleisner said NUPU is under "constant pressure" from local 3M and Kraft plants to reduce energy costs and that many rural residents work at the plants.
Wrase added that state conservation mandates require cities to use more and more renewable energy in five-year increments beginning in 2006.
He added that solar and biomass energy including burning RDF (refuse-derived fuel) is being considered by NUPU but other renewable fuels are currently less cost-effective than wind energy.
Wrase said NUPU buys non-renewable power from Excel Energy. Renewable power is available from Excel but at a higher rate, he added.
Nicollet County Commissioners plan to act on the Planning & Zoning recommendation on Tuesday, Sept. 23.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).