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Goodhue Wind Farm Project Dealt Setback

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Opponents of expanded wind power call it the great contradiction. They say that so called "green energy" is good for the environment, but bad for birds.

Each year, the spinning turbine blades will kill countless migrating birds, from bats to bald eagles.

Daniel Schleck is an attorney representing the citizen's group, the Coalition for Sensible Siting.

"When you're dealing with noted species it's hard to identify how many, so that issue needs to be addressed possibly further," Schleck said.

Schleck was among those in attendance at a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearing in St. Paul concerning the latest wind farm application. AWA Goodhue Wind is proposing to build a 48-turbine wind farm in the heart of Goodhue County.

The latest hurdle it faces is getting approval of an Avian and Bat Protection Plan. The plan is required by the PUC before the wind project can move forward. The problem is the wind farm is proposed just miles from the critical Mississippi flyway, a major nesting area for bald and golden eagles.

In a packed hearing room Thursday, commissioners heard details of the plan but were unimpressed. They cite missing and incomplete data that was collected by project contractors concerning the number of eagle nests, their location as well as data on bat colonies.

The project is also Minnesota's first to be required to estimate the unintentional but highly likely killing of eagles. It's known as an "incidental take permit," issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"It does not intend to have negative impact on birds and bats in the area and certainly not intend to kill bald eagles," said Christy Brisven, the attorney for Goodhue Wind.

After hearing from Brisven as well as opponents, the commission voted 2-1 to deny the permit and send it back for more work.

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