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Garwin McNeilus, Southeastern Minnesota's wind pioneer

He said that people don't realize that a wind farm is constant maintenance, and to ensure longevity, preventative maintenance is needed. ..."Wind energy is not the complete answer to our energy needs," McNeilus said. "It is a piece of the pie, but you still have to have the whole pie, because there are days when the wind doesn't blow."

DODGE CENTER -- Garwin McNeilus' watched with frustration as the wind shredded flag after flag at his factory south of Dodge Center. Then he had an idea.

"I thought, 'Hmm, let's put up wind turbines,'" he said.

So he did.

That was in 2002, and now, seven years later, he has 56 turbines generating 65 megawatts of energy just outside of town.

But as easy as the decision was to create a wind farm, McNeilus didn't take it lightly.

"Oh, I did my homework," he said. "I researched the wind in western Minnesota, the wind business, the turbines."

He even brought his neighbors to Iowa and southwestern Minnesota where they talked about all the aspects of having and living near a turbine, such as noise and ice.

Ideal location

What he found, was that right here in southeastern Minnesota, we have an ideal location for wind farms.

"Over here near Rochester, the wind is not as good as western Minnesota, but we have a Cadillac location insomuch as we can tie into the Byron substations or the Adams (substation)," he said. "Also, here we have a consistent wind. When you are in the hills, the wind is not as good; it has more sheer and it's much harder on turbines. So this... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

DODGE CENTER -- Garwin McNeilus' watched with frustration as the wind shredded flag after flag at his factory south of Dodge Center. Then he had an idea.

"I thought, 'Hmm, let's put up wind turbines,'" he said.

So he did.

That was in 2002, and now, seven years later, he has 56 turbines generating 65 megawatts of energy just outside of town.

But as easy as the decision was to create a wind farm, McNeilus didn't take it lightly.

"Oh, I did my homework," he said. "I researched the wind in western Minnesota, the wind business, the turbines."

He even brought his neighbors to Iowa and southwestern Minnesota where they talked about all the aspects of having and living near a turbine, such as noise and ice.

Ideal location

What he found, was that right here in southeastern Minnesota, we have an ideal location for wind farms.

"Over here near Rochester, the wind is not as good as western Minnesota, but we have a Cadillac location insomuch as we can tie into the Byron substations or the Adams (substation)," he said. "Also, here we have a consistent wind. When you are in the hills, the wind is not as good; it has more sheer and it's much harder on turbines. So this prairie out here is ideal."

But that is not to say that McNeilus hasn't had his share of maintenance problems with his turbines.

"I have had maintenance situations with blades," he said. "Blades are a major thing to be aware of. I didn't know that when I bought them. If I were buying a turbine today, blades would be the first thing I would look at."

Regular maintenance

He said that people don't realize that a wind farm is constant maintenance, and to ensure longevity, preventative maintenance is needed.

"People think the wind is free and they (the turbines) just turn," McNeilus said. "No. It's a 24-7 factory that's up in the air, that you need personnel to take care of."

For McNeilus, the personnel comes in the form of nine full-time workers whose jobs are solely to keep the turbines spinning.

He wouldn't have it any other way.

"Wind energy is not the complete answer to our energy needs," McNeilus said. "It is a piece of the pie, but you still have to have the whole pie, because there are days when the wind doesn't blow."

He believes it is a step in the right direction, however, and plans on adding a few more turbines to his farm within the next few years. And, if he had the chance to do it all over again, he would.

"I am intrigued with alternative energy; I believe in alternative energy," he said. "I am excited about the wind; I want to encourage the wind, orderly, and I think it will be very good for the area."


Source: http://www.postbulletin.com...

APR 21 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19952-garwin-mcneilus-southeastern-minnesota-s-wind-pioneer
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