NEW ULM - The "listening" meeting that New Ulm Public Utilities has scheduled for next Monday in St. George is not a part of the permitting process that the utility must hold if and when it attempts to install five wind turbines in that area, Utilities Planning and Development Engineer Pat Wrase emphasized Friday.
The public meeting, which anyone can attend, is aimed at landowners within a one-mile radius of the utility's proposed wind farm project in Nicollet County. It runs from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 16, in the St. George Parish Center.
"This listening session is related to the wind farm project, of course, but [it] isn't associated with any permitting requirement or anything like that. The main reason was to get together with the folks that are located the closest to the actual turbine units," Wrase said.
"We've heard a lot during the past several months going back to the letters in the various newspapers and then the responses, comments and presentation when we were just trying to permit our MET (anemometer] tower to see if the project should go forward," Wrase said.
"Really the main reason is to just give that brief update on the project, and then to hear all of their concerns. [We'll] try to answer all of the concerns we can at the [meeting]. The ones we can't we'll take back and do a bit of research and come up with solutions or answers to all of their concerns, we hope," Wrase said.
"Then, [we will] come back at probably another meeting as we get a little bit further into the project, just to have an update on all of their concerns, and how we plan to mitigate all of their concerns with the project."
If you go
What: Listening session on proposed wind farm
When: 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.on Monday, Feb. 16
Where: St. George Parish Center.
Battle lines were drawn last fall when New Ulm Public Utilities sought Nicollet County's approval to erect a tower with an anemometer at its top at the proposed location of the utility's wind farm south and west of Lafayette.
The utility got the go-ahead from county officials, but not before an anti-wind farm group had had its say against installing wind turbines in Nicollet County.
Since then, the utility is finding that the anemometer is verifying the published wind data for that area, Wrase said.
"The MET tower has been in place now since November 25th. It's recording data and seems to be correlating real well with the results that we had expected, based on the meteorological model of the wind resources that was done back in the summer of 2007," Wrase said.
"Actually, for December, we were probably about 5 percent above what the model had reported or projected for that particular month. For January, we were a little under, maybe 5 percent under the expected output, but now again in February we started out real strong so on average we are just about where the report had projected for the wind resource which is encouraging."
The utility's explanation of the project's technical elements will open the meeting, followed by a report from a southern Minnesota farmer who has several wind turbines on his property.
The utility also promises "there will be no sign-in sheets or recording of this session and no commenter will need to be identified." However, the utility noted that, as it will be an open meeting, there may be news reporters at the meeting.
Alluding to charges leveled by anti-wind turbine residents in southwestern Nicollet County, Wrase said the three landowners who signed up to provide easements for the turbines appear to still be on board.
"I had a visit from one of them yesterday [last Thursday] who just stopped in to see how things are going. Of course, this person is excited about the project and supportive of the project and would like to see it get moving."
Ron Larsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org