The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that the controversial Goodhue Wind Farm, a 78 MW project proposed for Goodhue County, Minn., does not have to abide by setback rules that were previously established by county commissioners, as state regulators showed just cause to disregard the rules when granting a permit for the project.
The court's ruling upheld a 2011 decision of an administrative law judge and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to approve a permit for AWA Goodhue Wind to install 50 wind turbines about 1,500 feet away from homes.
The appeal was filed by two groups – Goodhue Wind Truth and the Coalition for Sensible Siting – which have been vocal in their opposition to the wind farm's development and had sought for larger setback distances, claiming that wind turbines cause health problems.
In its decision, the appeals court said that state law requires the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to accept county ordinances – unless the commission has good cause not to apply them.
The process would have made the project impossible to construct, the PUC found, and there was no evidence that shadow flicker or noise from the project's turbines would cause harm to residents. County officials testified that the 10-rotor setback was designed to eliminate all noise and flicker exposure in order to avoid the costs of modeling and measuring the actual impact.
National Wind, the developer behind the project, declined comment on the ruling.
While the ruling can be construed as a positive for the beleaguered project, the further development of the wind farm still has several more hurdles to clear, such as determining the project's wildlife impacts – a condition of the PUC permit.