You Don't Own the Wind


     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - The city of Orono, Minn., adopted an illegal ban on wind power stations, a wind power company and landowners claim in court.
     Go Green Energy and Jay and Kendall Nygard sued Orono in Hennepin County Court, joined by plaintiff the Micro Wind Advisory Council.
     Orono, pop. 8,000, is a wealthy western exurb of Minneapolis.
     They claim that Minnesota has enacted laws and policies to encourage sustainable and renewable energy sources, including "small wind energy conversion systems," defined as "any combination of wind energy conversion system and any device such as a wind charger, windmill, or wind turbine and associated facilities that convert wind energy to electrical energy and have a capacity of less than 5,000 kilowatts."
     But on Dec. 9, 2013, Orono "adopted a complete ban on small wind energy conversion systems," the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs claim this ordinance is pre-empted by Minnesota Statute § 216F.02(b), "which prohibits local governments from enacting complete bans on businesses and homeowners using SWECS [small wind energy conversion systems] to generate electricity."
     What's more, the plaintiffs say: "The wind is not a property interest of the government; the wind, as it enters the land boundaries of a property owner, is the property interest of the person who has a right to harvest the wind to benefit himself or herself, to benefit the health and welfare of his or her family or to protect his property."
     They seek declaratory judgment that Orono's law is pre-empted by state law, and that it violates their statutory personal interests, and an injunction prohibiting its enforcement.
     They are represented by Erick Kaardal with Mohrma, Kaardal & Erickson.
     Wind power projects have met community opposition, even in liberal, environmentally conscious states such as Massachusetts and Vermont, from people who believe the towers and unsightly and may harm birds.
     Orono's median household income of $106,970 is nearly twice the state median of $56,954, according to city-data.com. Its median home value of $562,308 is more than triple the statewide median of $183,500, according to city-data. It is 93 percent white. It is on the northern shore of Lake Minnetonka.