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Wind Turbines

Under the Wind Siting Act (Minnesota Statute 216F), a site permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) is required to build and operate a large wind energy conversion system (LWECS).  An LWECS is any combination of wind turbines and associated facilities with the capacity to generate five megawatts (MW) or more of electricity.  The rules to implement the permitting requirements for LWECS are found at Minnesota Rules Chapter 7854

Small wind energy conversion systems (less than five megawatts) are permitted according to local ordinances.  LWECS between five and 25 megawatts can, in lieu of Commission permitting, be permitted by counties if the applicable counties assume permitting responsibility and provide notice to the Commission.

Open Projects

Open projects are projects currently in the permitting process. They are listed here chronologically, most recent projects first. To see all projects or to search for a project by location or type, see the project database

Docket Number Project Name Description
13-843
Odell Wind Farm, LLC has applied for a Large Wind Energy Conversation System Site Permit for the 200 MW Odell Wind Farm in Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin, and Watonwan counties
13-216
EDF Renewable Energy is applying for an LWECS permit in Pipestone and Murray counties through its Stoneray Power Partners, LLC subsidiary
11-471
Black Oak Wind, LLC, and Getty Wind, LLC, have jointly submitted a Certificate of Need Application for the proposed Black Oak Wind Farm and Getty Wind Project in Stearns County. The two projects are adjacent to one another and are located near Sauk Centre. The proposed Black Oak Wind Farm is a 42 MW project located in Ashley and Raymond townships . The Getty Wind Project is a 40 MW project located in Getty and Sauk Centre townships.
11-608
Ellerth Wind, LLC site permit application for the 98.9 MW for the Ellerth Windpark in Marshall County
11-831
Getty Wind Company, LLC, proposes to develop a 40 MW wind farm in Getty and Sauk Centre townships in Stearns County.
10-1240
40 MW Wind Farm in Stearns County proposed by Black Oak Wind, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Geronimo Wind Energy
10-49
Proposed 95 megawatt Large Wind Energy Conversion System in Stearns County
09-1197
Proposed 301 MW Large Wind Energy Conversion System in Dodge and Mower Counties
09-830
Site permit application for a 20 megawatt Large Wind Energy Conversion System (LWECS) in Stevens County, Minnesota
08-973
Proposed 280 Megawatt Large Wind Energy Conversion System in Fillmore County.
Annual Hearing for the Power Plant Siting and Transmission Line Routing Program

 

Project Size Determination

The Minnesota Department of Commerce (Department) determines the size of wind energy conversion systems under Minnesota Statute Chapter 216F.011.  This determination establishes who has jurisdiction and siting authority (state or local).  An application for local permitting is not complete and cannot be processed without a size determination by the Department. 

Prospective applicants and wind developers can request a project size determination from the Department of Commerce by completing and submitting a Project Size Determination Information Form.  The form is available here as PDF document: Project Size Determination Information Form

State Review

Large wind energy conversion systems (five megawatts and over) are subject to state jurisdiction and review.  Commission rules establish the requirements for submitting and processing an LWECS site permit application (Minnesota Rules Chapter 7854).  The application for a permit must contain, among other things, an analysis of the potential environmental impacts, proposed mitigation measures, and any adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided.  Review and comment on this analysis constitutes environmental review.

Guidance for LWECS site permit applications is available:

Application Guidance for Site Permitting of Large Wind Energy Conversion Systems (LWECS) in Minnesota.  

Prospective applicants and wind developers are strongly encouraged to utilize this guidance and to contact Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) staff to discuss their projects and applications prior to submitting an application to the Commission. 

The Commission makes an initial decision to accept, conditionally accept, or reject an application. Within 45 days after acceptance of the application, the Commission makes a preliminary determination whether a permit should be issued or denied.  If the determination is to issue a permit, then a draft site permit is prepared and made available for public review.  Department of Commerce EERA staff holds public information meetings and solicits comments on the draft site permit.

 

The Commission makes a final decision within 180 days of the acceptance of the application.  If the project is approved, a permit is issued with any conditions the Commission considers necessary to protect the environment, enhance sustainable development, and promote the efficient use of resources. Minn. Rules 7854 | LWECS Permitting Flowchart.   

 

Local Review

Small wind energy conversion systems (under five megawatts) are subject to local jurisdiction and review (Minnesota Statute 216F.02). Wind energy conversion systems between five and 25 MW can be subject to local jurisdiction if counties, with notice to the Commission, assume permitting responsibility (Minnesota Statute 216F.08). This assumption requires a county board resolution and notice to the Commission.  Counties must incorporate Commission-prescribed general permit standards in all permits that they issue. See the Order Establishing General Permit Standards. Counties may adopt ordinance standards that are more restrictive than the Commission's general permit standards (Minnesota Statute 216F.081).

Counties that have assumed permitting responsibility for wind energy conversion systems between five and 25 MW are listed in the Commission docket: M-07-1102. You can view this docket electronically through eDockets; search using the Year "07" and Number "1102". 

Tall Structure Permits

Wind energy conversion systems near airports may require a permit from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  Additional information is available on the Department's Aeronautics and Aviation website.

Avian and Bat Studies

As a requirement of the first permit issued for a large wind energy conversion system in 1995, Northern States Power Company was required to conduct an avian study to determine the effect of the turbines on avian mortality. After a four-year study, investigators reported no significant avian impacts in the Buffalo Ridge area from the turbines.  See "Avian Monitoring Studies at the Buffalo Ridge, Minnesota Wind Resource Area Results of a 4-Year Study," September 2000. (273p., 8.3M, PDF 5.0) | report summary

An additional two-year study was required to determine the effect of the turbines on bats.  The final report of that Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Xcel Energy study, "Bat Interactions with Wind Turbines at the Buffalo Ridge, Minnesota Wind Resource Area: An Assessment of Bat Activity, Species Composition and Collision Mortality" was published in November 2003.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (DOC EERA) unit and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) have secured grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) through the State Wildlife Grant Program to conduct a study looking at bat fatalities at three operating wind energy facilities in southern Minnesota.  The first two years (2013 and 2014) of the MN Bat Study consist of conducting standardized searches at randomly selected turbines at all three wind energy facilities, and developing baseline bat fatality estimates utilizing the most recent fatality estimate calculations.  The final year of the study will focus on the development, implementation and evaluation of operational curtailment measures, and the associated effects to bat fatality estimates determined with standard searches. 

Bat Fatality Rates and Effects of Changes in Operational Cut-in Speeds at Commercial Wind Farms in Southern Minnesota - Year 1

The wind energy facilities in the study are Big Blue Wind Facility (Faribault County), Oak Glen Wind Facility (Steele County), and Grand Meadow Wind Facility (Mower County).  For additional information on the MN Bat Study please direct your correspondence to DOC-EERA staff, Richard Davis (Richard.Davis@state.mn.us).

Additional studies have been conducted at wind farms throughout the United States and the world.  A summary of the results of these studies is provided in the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative fact sheet: Wind Turbine Interactions with Birds, Bats, and their Habitats: A Summary of Research Results and Priority Questions, Spring 2010.

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