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Fenton Wind Project poised for upgrades

WORTHINGTON -- A decade after the Fenton Wind Project went online in Nobles and Murray counties, the wind turbines' age and advancements in technology now point the way toward a retrofit.

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WORTHINGTON - A decade after the Fenton Wind Project went online in Nobles and Murray counties, the wind turbines’ age and advancements in technology now point the way toward a retrofit.

EDF Renewable Energy is proposing to retrofit the 205.5 megawatt, 137-turbine wind farm. The project would include updating the drive train and hub of each turbine with more efficient components and updating the rotors with lighter, longer (from 77 meters to 91 meters) and more effective blades.

Fenton Wind Farm was the first industrial scale wind farm in Minnesota. Since going online in 2008, the power generated from the wind has been sold to Xcel Energy.

“It’s been a success story over the past 10 years,” said Shanelle Montana, project development manager for Fenton. “Now, some of those first projects are ripe for repowering, retrofitting.”

Montana said the wind farm will have essentially the same footprint, but generate up to 11 percent to 12 percent more power if the entire retrofit moves forward.

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The proposed retrofit must go through the state permitting process, which Montana said is underway. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17.

The process is estimated to take up to six months, positioning the retrofit during the third and fourth quarters of 2019 if permits are approved. Montana said retrofittings will be done one turbine at a time.

Due to changes in setback requirements, Montana said some of the turbines are no longer in compliance. The state will be asked to waive some of those related rules, as the existing towers aren’t being relocated.

The impact to Nobles County during the retrofit includes heavy equipment being transported on county and township roads, requiring that larger turn radiuses be in place on roads used. Montana said new road use agreements will be needed with the county and the township. She said there will also be a need for conditional use permits for laydown yards and other work areas, and there will be crop damage associated with the work.

The company will be working with landowners on updating language in leases to provide more beneficial terms for landowners, Montana said.

Following the report, commissioners moved to other agenda items. The board:

  • Tabled a request from Sheriff Kent Wilkening to offer Nobles County as the fiscal agent for the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force. Several commissioners said they support the idea, but they want to talk with staff in the auditor-treasurer and finance departments, who would be tasked with the additional work.
  • Approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation regarding upcoming work on Minnesota 91. The project includes lighting, mill and overlay and reconstruction of the bridge over I-90 in the next three years.
  • Discussed briefly the Fourth Avenue sidewalk entrance to the Nobles County Government Center. The contractor wants to push the reconstruction to next spring. The entrance will now be closed for the winter due to the steep grade and safety concerns.
  • Authorized recruitment for two new positions in the county assessor’s office - for an AMA-certified deputy assessor who will also provide office supervision, and a property appraiser. Both positions are in the 2019 budget.
  • Authorized payment of $34,500, representing 75 percent of the final payment, to Brennan Construction for work completed on the Prairie Justice Center garage. The 25 percent withheld is due to paperwork that’s yet to be received.
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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