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Pelican Lake wind turbine canceled by power co-op

Wind turbines can be seen Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, southwest of Rolla, N.D.Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

DUNN TOWNSHIP, Minn. — Lake Region Electric Cooperative has axed a proposed wind turbine-solar power array in Dunn Township, near Pelican Lake.

"We have cancelled the community based renewable project, which was a wind/solar hybrid project," Lake Region CEO Tim Thompson said in an email. "The project was being developed by Juhl Energy and we would purchase the energy from the project. Based on the feedback from our members, our board of directors decided it was best to not proceed."

In a letter to project opponent Michael Neustel, a summer resident of Pelican Lake, Thompson said the "project will be cancelled, and the conditional use permit application pulled."

That means public meetings scheduled for Dec. 18 and Dec. 20 by the Dunn Town Board in Otter Tail County have also been canceled, Neustel said.

Neustel, a patent attorney in New York, found out about the proposal Dec. 10, after Pelican Lake property owner Helen Friend posted the news on the social media site By Monday, Neustal had set up a website to give voice to those who opposed the project. Apparently, it worked.

"Dan Juhl called me at 9 a.m. Wednesday," Neustel said in an interview. "He said he's never seen this level of opposition from any community about a wind tower — it says a lot about the Pelican (Lake) community. They take this stuff very seriously."

Under the proposal, the 486-foot-high wind turbine and solar power array would have been built in Dunn Township, a little over a mile south of Broadwater Beach on Pelican Lake. That had people in the area concerned about Pelican Lake aesthetics, since the tower would have been clearly visible from the lake.

The Lake Region Community Hybrid project would have been a small SolarWind Hybrid project, designed to allow solar energy to be converted or curtailed via the same inverter and control system used by the turbine. The project would have saved Lake Region about $120,000 a year in energy costs.

In his email, Thompson said the project was designed to provide "some cost savings for our members. The project was part of our rate stability plan to keep rates as low as possible...."

Neustel said people were upset by the short window (less than two weeks) between the time the project was proposed to the Dunn Town Board on Dec. 11 and the Dec. 20 meeting when a decision would have been made by the township board.

It seemed like a rush job during the holiday season, when people were occupied with other things, he said. The Dunn Township site came into play after the project was shot down earlier this month by adjoining Scambler Township, which had concerns about the Pelican Rapids Airport.

Neustel said Pelican Lake property owners were also unhappy that two of the five Dunn Town Board members would have had to abstain for conflict of interest reasons.

"I think this is what happened," he said. "By the end of the year, they needed to get this wind tower approved, otherwise they wouldn't get these tax incentives. They just didn't think this through very well." He praised Lake Region Electric Cooperative for listening to the opposition and making a quick decision to kill the project in Dunn Township.

"I give Tim Thompson a lot of credit for that," Neustel said, "so people didn't have to keep fighting this — It could have gone on to the Dec. 18 and Dec. 20 (township) meetings and ruined people's holidays."