Wealthy Minnesota Town Tries to Ban Wind Energy

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Jay Nygard with his wind turbine (photo: Jay Nygard)

A wealthy suburb of Minneapolis is being sued over its recent ban on wind turbines.


The town of Orono, with about 8,000 residents, adopted an ordinance last December prohibiting wind energy conversion systems within its zoning districts. That move upset resident Jay Nygard, who’s suing Orono, claiming state law allows local governments to regulate small turbines but not ban them completely.


Plaintiffs Nygard and the Micro Wind Advisory Council, which was co-founded by Nygard, are relying on 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.”


This is not the first fight between Nygard and city leaders over wind power. In 2010, he applied for a permit to construct a nearly 30-foot wind turbine on his property. The city denied his request, but Nygard installed the turbine anyway. The city then sued Nygard.


Orono ultimately won that battle after the case was heard by a district court judge and an appeals court.


Despite losing his case, Nygard, who also sells wind turbines, is pressing ahead with his lawsuit to have the ordinance overturned. “It’s about my property rights,” he told the Star Tribune. “And I want to prevent other people from having to go through what I’ve had to.”


The city’s position on Nygard’s request for a permit was that his property is too small to safely house the wind turbine. It sits on a third of an acre and the turbine was placed within five feet of his neighbor’s land, officials say.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Orono Resident Sues City over Ban on Wind Turbines (by Kelly Smith, Star Tribune)

You Don’t Own the Wind (Courthouse News Service)

U.S. Gives Wind Farms 30-Year Permits to Kill Eagles (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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