Jay Nygard is not in jail, and still fighting Orono over his wind turbines

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This tall metal structure (on the right) moves people to sue each other
Jay Nygard got the bright idea for a homemade wind turbine in 2010, and set about collecting, in his own words, only the finest parts -- "I didn't buy a piece of shit propeller."

Maybe so. But the whole thing stunk to Orono city officials. They tried to stop construction and took him to court in 2011. Since then, he's built three more machines in his Lake Minnetonka backyard.

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"Every time they tell me to do something, it pisses me off," Nygard says.

Count 'em: That's four years of being pissed off, three years of lawsuits and counter lawsuits between Nygard and his hometown representatives -- a feud that nearly sent the man to jail. (An appeals court intervened.)

Finally, a Hennepin County judge is about to make some sense out of this. The court heard arguments Monday about whether Minnesota law allows citizens to construct their own turbines or whether cities can -- in the case of Orono -- ban the technology.

It'll be an important verdict one way or the other, setting a precedent for future Nygards who want to go off the traditional utility grid against the wishes of their neighbors.

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A smaller wind turbine on Nygard's property in Orono
Erick Kaardahl's position is simple: He argues that Nygard, his client, is protected by state law and points to the plain language of the statute saying any person may construct a wind/solar energy system for their own use. Orono maintains the right to regulate such things as noise and height and light, but cannot prevent you from building it.

Of course, George Hoff disagrees. He argued on behalf of the city in court, suggesting that its powers of zoning and policing were broad enough to supersede state law in this case. Minnesota legislators could have inserted language into the bill stopping a city like Orono from interfering in the personalized turbine game, but they didn't.

We know Nygard is also being sued by some of his neighbors, but the question of why the city dislikes the turbines in the first place isn't entirely clear. Another city attorney recently told the Strib that the lawsuit has nothing to do with the merits of clean energy. It has to do with a 750-pound machine on a 30-foot pole -- i.e. public safety.

We went looking for a solid explanation outside the courtroom. What we found was a rickety merry-go-round with chipped paint: Hoff referred us to the mayor and the mayor referred us to Hoff.

Dizzy, we paused for a moment and found Nygard lingering in the lobby. He explained that, as a mechanical engineer, he would like to sell his turbines to like-minded people throughout the states. Indeed, his company, Go Green Energy, is listed as a plaintiff in the relevant lawsuit. "As much as Orono tries to derail this, they can't," Nygard says.

Judge Philip Bush told the court that he would consider both sides and render a verdict when he's ready.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse


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19 comments
Scott Gunvaldson
Scott Gunvaldson

I thought you were talking about the guy from the tv show Fargo. Nevermind.

Devon Majerus
Devon Majerus

As long as it falls between the height, sound, and light parameters, does it matter?

Jason McCain
Jason McCain

I watched the spot awhile ago and the neighbors were complaining about the sunlight hitting the blades and blinding them in their house? Am I right about this?

Erich Koch
Erich Koch

I feel sorry for the people complaining about it..their lives have such little meaning and they have such low self worth that this is all they have to do with their time.

seagrave0185
seagrave0185

Seriously? This is the same no-sense, power grabbing red tape everyone voted for! Start taking your freedom back. It's MY damned house. If I want to paint it like a giant hand flipping off the capital, i will. I have to go through months of bullshit paper work and deal with city swine to build a concrete two step stairwell on MY PROPERTY? How about this, you bloated, human-failure pilgarlics, climb down from your self imposed point of office, and let a "free man" beat you in the head with the shovel I use to dig up the egress window I install without your permission. It's not like someone is trying to build a nuclear power plant in their basement putting the public at risk, so put your gold plated, shit smelling pen away and get the fuck out of our lives. You want more votes? GET RID OF SCUM that sit in OUR diamond studded office and invent shit to hang on the heads of the public... you god damn slave driving bureaucratic milksops! ARRRGH!!!!

TruDat
TruDat

I don't like wind turbines, I think they are ugly and noisy, but I will fight to the death your right to have one on your own, private property.  They don't hurt anyone, and that should be the measure of a law.

Curtis Berg
Curtis Berg

"Another city attorney recently told the Strib that the lawsuit has nothing to do with the merits of clean energy. It has to do with a 750-pound machine on a 30-foot pole -- i.e. public safety." Not much of an argument when you consider the number of watercraft and snowmobiles that must race past his dock.

Matthew Martin
Matthew Martin

This man wants to live in Orono and "be off the grid" in terms of electricity. The city has the rights to tell him what to do. Go live further outside the 694/494 loop if you want more " lawn freedom".

Jeff Hames
Jeff Hames

Keep fighting Jay! I want one for my house.

Joe Sattler
Joe Sattler

Oh, would ya just piss off, Orono. Don't you have something more important to do, like hassling some punk skateboarders, or busting those teenagers who are always smoking doobies under the bleachers?

Tyler Chip Moody Suter
Tyler Chip Moody Suter

People need to get a damn life. Let the man build whatever he wants on his property, so long as it has no PRACTICAL effect of his neighbors.

jbarth3
jbarth3

Orono has a lot of explaining to do!

Who is really running this city?

They won't leave Mr. Nygard alone and

Just sent James Barth to jail for 5 days for

Ladders and firewood behind his garage that no one can see unless your a trespassing

City employee. Something needs to be done!

A Minnesota senatorial committee investigation would be a good start, then fire all the city attorneys and city officials involved in criminally prosecuting homeowners!

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

Orono is way out of line.   That thing is nothing.   Who cares if he has it in his yard.  It looks more like decoration than anything else.  I am going to check out his website.  

jaynygard
jaynygard

that is just what they want......

TruDat
TruDat

@SirSwearsALot @TruDat

I was quoting Voltaire, didn't mean to go over your head, but it's one of the most well known lines in history.

WaldoJim
WaldoJim

@TruDat @SirSwearsALot If you don't mean it, then don't say it. Great men can string words together eloquently. Everyone else quotes them without thinking.

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