Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dodge County officials get update on wind project

Mark Lennox, project director for Dodge County Wind  told Dodge County Commissioners last week that the company is working to advance the project and meet the concerns of local residents and board members about the proposed route of the transmission lines.

Dodge County Wind, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, is seeking Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approval to construct a wind farm in Dodge and Steele Counties that will have the capacity of up to 260 megawatts of clean, renewable energy.

In public meetings earlier this year and in comments made to the PUC some landowners and area residents expressed concerns about the project’s impact on the land and the environment. Dodge County Board members have also expressed some concerns about the location of the transmission lines.

Lenox said that the company has submitted a new alternate route to the PUC that would maximize the use of private land for the transmission lines and poles wherever possible as opposed to using right of way land.

In addition, he told commissioners, the new options would also make use of more county roads with wider rights of way as opposed to township roads.

Dodge County Wind, he said, is making every effort possible to address comments and concerns that have been expressed by residents and the county board.

“We want to listen to the county and be responsive to the county’s concerns,” he said.

Lennox said the timeline for the project is still uncertain although he was anticipating another round of public meetings next spring and summer with permit approval late next year. Construction, he said, could begin in May of 2024.

He again pointed out the economic benefits of the project, including $750,000 to $1 million annual tax payments to Dodge County and more than $50 million in direct landowner payments over 30 years as well as $200 million in economic activity in the area during construction. Project spending, the company presentation said, is expected to support $1.2 million in annual labor income.

Responding to Lennox’ presentation, commissioners said their concerns are not with wind energy itself.

“We’re not against wind energy,” Commissioner Rod Peterson said. “It’s a good thing. That’s not the issue.”

The issue, he said, is in how that wind energy is delivered to consumers. Dodge County is an agricultural county, he said, and the county does not want transmission routes that interfere with the farmers. That is why there is concern about the placement of the lines and how those lines would impact township and county roads and other agricultural uses of the land such as crop spraying.

“I still think it better to either move the lines underground or to a wider right of way such as a state highway.

Commissioner David Kenworthy added that he also was not against wind energy but that people along the distribution lines would receive no advantage from the project and he wants to make sure that they are okay with it. The energy from the project will be used by Great River Energy customers.

Kenworthy also asked if Dodge County Wind had talked with other area energy providers such as Steele Waseca Cooperative about sharing transmission poles and routes.

Lennox said they have had conversations with Steele Waseca, Peoples Energy and Freeborn-Mower.

“We are clearly not against the project,” Commissioner Rhonda Toquam said, “we just have concerns to keep as many people happy as possible.”


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