Green power advocates and environmentalists are watching their ambitions of a wind-powered Gustavus float away. Though the College has been making plans for a wind turbine for almost two years, the process has not been easy. Much of the time spent in planning was used to find a company that would sell individual turbines instead of large orders.
After being wait-listed for a number of years, Gustavus thought they had come up with an acceptable solution. More obstacles ensued though, when Nicollet County adopted an ordinance prohibiting the construction of wind turbines within one half mile of any residential building. This ordinance was created near the end of the College’s planning, and completely changed how the project could be completed.
There is no space on campus that would be outside the half mile limit from residences.
Gustavus’ planning committee decided to submit an appeal to the variance, asking for a 30% decrease in the ordinance. Prior to the new rule, the distance required for a turbine was only a quarter of a mile. The Gustavus community was informed by an email from President Jack Ohle Dec. 22 that the County board of Adjustments and Appeals had denied the College’s request in a meeting the previous evening.
“[The county] had just created the ordinance four months before,” Director of Physical Plant Warren Wunderlich said. “They felt that one-half mile is what is needed.”
Junior Environmental studies major Anders Arnevik admitted some disappointment, “I think getting a turbine would have shown other schools that we’re serious about conservation.”
On the other side are those who see the potential benefits of wind power. From the planned construction, it is thought that Gustavus could generate two-thirds to three-fourths of its power from wind energy, drastically cutting expenses and coal use.
The people behind the project have now had to reconsider their options. One possibility would be to build one or more wind turbines at an off-campus location and sell the generated power back to an energy company. This technique is employed by many Minnesotan wind harvesters, and is in effect the same as directly using power generated by a turbine.
Another possibility is to build the turbine on private property to the west of campus and use it as originally planned. This is another popular method for wind farming because there are farmers and other landowners with enough property that the turbine would not affect their residence. As of yet, Gustavus has not decided upon a course of action since the denial of the variance.
“We’re considering our options,” Wunderlich said.