State permitting of a 78-megawatt (MW) capacity wind power plant in Goodhue County, Minn., is on hold after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 2-1 on Thursday to deny approval of the avian and bat protection plan (ABPP) submitted by the developer. Opponents of the project have argued that the spinning wind turbines would put bald eagles at risk.
In a statement [PDF], the commission said that “after reviewing the record relating to the proposed plan, including agency comments and public testimony, the commissioners raised several concerns about the adequacy of the information in the ABPP presented by AWA Goodhue, LLC.”
Midwest Energy News reported earlier this week that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) “had raised a long list of questions and complaints last month about AWA Goodhue’s original protection plan document.” In a letter, the agency said the developer had submitted bat survey data that was misleading and said a DNR employee had spotted an adult eagle sitting in a nest that in the developer’s study was said to be inactive. The agency also “criticized AWA Goodhue’s claim that it couldn’t predict the collision risk for bald eagles because of alleged ‘eagle baiting’ by the project’s opponents,” Midwest Energy News reported.
In its statement, the Minnesota PUC said the wind plant developers were welcome to “resubmit a new plan once the inadequacies identified by the commission have been addressed.” In addition to needing state permitting on the avian and bat protection issue, Midwest Energy News reported the developer “has agreed to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on an ‘incidental take permit’ for bald eagles, a potentially lengthy process.
According to the PUC, Goodhue Wind would consist of 50-turbine in an area of approximately 32,700 acres just west of the city of Goodhue in the townships of Belle Creek, Goodhue, Minneola, Vasa, and Zumbrota. Energy produced by the facility is anticipated to be sold to Xcel Energy.