Left in the Dark: Old Fashioned Concerns over 21st Centrury Energy

By KBJR News 1

November 15, 2011 Updated Nov 15, 2011 at 11:43 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - To alleviate a potential energy crisis hundreds of miles of power lines are in development across Minnesota and Wisconsin. But, while everyone needs electricity not everyone is happy with the power line push.

Companies, feverishly working to reach a strict renewable energy standard by 2025, are facing increasing protest from those who say "not in my backyard"

Crews are hard at work on a 28 mile transmission line from Monticello to St. Cloud that promises to improve energy reliability.
This past summer's streak of warm weather is a prime example of the growing power need.

"At least half of the CAPX2020 utilities, at least five or six broke new peak demand records during that three, four day period," said Tim Carlsgaard, the Communications and Public Affairs Manager for CAPX2020.

The central Minnesota line is one of four CAPX2020 projects in the works totaling more than 700 miles of high voltage transmission lines.

Those lines that will one day run through Dein Regnier's property.

"Right through the corner over there, come diagonally across my neighbor's property and this property right here where the woods start and go directly east," explained Regnier.

Reginer lives just north of Rochester and in the future path of a transmission line that will stretch from Wisconsin to South Dakota.

"Instead of running through the forest land of Southeastern Minnesota, I'd just as soon have it go down existing highways, existing infrastructure," he said."

He is one of dozens of landowners who've spoken out against the lines and taken their concerns to the public utilities commission.

"We realize if you can build transmission in a way it works with the community and works for the community, that gives the landowners a say," said Johnathan Hladik, an energy advocate for the Center for Rural Affairs.

Carlsgaard says CAPX2020 is working very closely with everyone from land owners to the feds to explain the need for the transmission lines.

"It's a long regulatory process," he said. "We've had hundreds of meetings, presentations, and sent out a million mail pieces just to keep people informed."

But those meetings won't make up for an expected loss in income for Jeannie Schreader who lives in a century-old farm.

"We do a lot of hay, its alfalfa fields and they'll be tearing them up, which takes another year to reestablish," Schreader said.

In some cases, politicians are also raising health concerns associated with new energy projects.

"There is enough credible evidence that the windmills that are going up now are affecting people's lives negatively," said Sen. Frank lasee of De Pere.

The Wisconsin State Senator is pushing a bill that would place a moratorium on future wind farms until a health study can be done.

The senator says he's heard wind turbines cause ear aches and splitting headaches. A number of movements across the country are also bringing health issues to the forefront.

The Senator's bill is currently up for co-sponsorship in Madison.

Barring any permit issues, CAPX2020 hopes to have all four transmission line projects complete by 2015.

More Information
Center for Rural Affairs

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