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Early Christmas Present as Township Kills Western MN Wind-Solar Project

Pelican Lake, Otter Tail Co.

It’s not often the so-called little guy gets to take a victory lap, especially after challenging the well-connected green energy industry. But the Fargo Forum reports the residents of Dunn Township on Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County just overcame the odds and pulled the plug on a nearly 500 foot wind turbine and solar system proposed for their corner of paradise.

“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.”

How did the rural Western Minnesota residents pull off the impossible? On the internet.

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 Nextdoor.com. 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.”

The local electric coop tried to win over skeptics of the so-called SolarWind Hybrid project. But the deal had to be approved before the end of the year, adding to the suspicion over a proposal that had to be rammed through in only a matter of days.

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.

In the end, Christmas arrived early on Pelican Lake this year, leaving the victors in a charitable mood.

“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.

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