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Man told to remove wind turbine on his property

Jay Nygard in Orono, Minnesota was told in June 2014 by a district judge to remove a wind turbine he installed on his property or go to jail. He says he's standing his ground on this.

In fall of 2010 Nygard applied for a building permit to construct a 21-foot vertical axis wind turbine on his property. City officials' response was denial of the permit saying wind generators are not listed in the Orono codebook as a permitted, accessory use so are therefore not allowed.

Nygard, former Orono City Councilor and Planning Commissioner, believing that no city code existed controlling wind turbines and no code that prohibited installing one, went ahead with the turbine's buried four-foot footing.

The city sued Nygard in March 2011 for installing the wind turbine pole and soon after the wind turbine itself, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the city must again consider the Nygards’ permit application.

The Public Comments section of the July 9, 2012 minutes of the Orono City Council Meeting provides a good view of the feelings of Orono citizens regarding the Nygard wind turbine debate. In 2013, a judge ruled for the city against the wind turbine saying the generator endangered public safety and dismissed the appeal.

The Rest Point Road residential lot on which the 29-foot-tall 750-pound wind turbine is mounted on a galvanized pole is less than a third of an acre on the west arm of Lake Minnetonka. Neighbors Penny Rogers and Peter Lanpher complained, calling the turbine an eyesore and saying "it takes away our freedom and enjoyment in our property."

In December 2013 the city prohibited wind energy conversion systems within any of its zoning districts by changing its ordinance. In June 2014 Nygard sued the city for prohibiting the wind turbine. A Minnesota state law allows local governments to establish requirements for constructing small wind energy conversion systems of less than 5,000 kilowatts like Nygard's but cannot ban them according to Nygard.

City Attorney Soren Mattick said the city is committed to removal of the wind turbine. In June 2014 Hennepin County Judge Susan Robiner ordered Nygard to remove the turbine and pay almost $8,000 for cutting a sugar maple near the turbine that neighbor Lanpher said was on his property. The Judge wrote, "No person should be expected to endure the detrimental effects the wind turbine creates."

Nygard is the owner of Go Green Energy and sells wind turbines in Minnesota and Florida, but now cannot do it in Orono, Minnesota because of permit and licensing laws. As for his own wind turbine, Nygard told the Star Tribune, "It’s my right to have it. I’m ready to go to jail for everyone’s right. If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do."

Perhaps the judges should consider requiring the turbine be on a taller pole to help reduce noise and flashing. The typical rule of thumb is that the entire rotor should be at least 30 feet above the tallest obstacle within a radius of 500 feet, also taking into account tree growth.

There is an obvious need for governments to be getting expert advice on establishing wind turbine ordinances. New energy technologies must be promoted, not prohibited. Tree ordinances should be part of the equation as well.