REGIONAL — EDF Renewable Energy is on track to begin construction on the Stoneray Wind Project, a 105-megawatt wind farm that runs through rural Pipestone County and Murray County, in early 2018.
The 50-turbine wind farm should start operation in December 2018. It will deliver energy to Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA)
The project will create 10 full-time jobs and more than 150 construction jobs — many of which local unions fear will come from out-of-state.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission denied an amendment request that would require EDF to prioritize the hire of local workers. The commission did, however, require that EDF file a report to the commission detailing its efforts to hire Minnesota workers.
The request was submitted by a coalition of Minnesota construction unions. This summer, the coalition launched a campaign to encourage developers of renewable energy projects to commit to hiring Minnesota workers. Their first target was EDF’s 100-turbine Red Pine Wind project in Ivanhoe, which has mostly utilized workers from far-away states for its construction.
“It’s a big step forward to have the commission recognize the issue and require a developer to report on local hiring efforts, but we still have a long way to go,” said Kevin Pranis, marketing manager for LIUNA of Minnesota and North Dakota.
“Until we have clear commitments from developers and transparent reporting, it will be hard for our members and other local residents to know whether they will have a real shot at wind construction jobs.”
Unions argued to the commission that local hiring is an important aspect to consider. They said EDF committed, in writing and in sworn testimony, to prioritize local hiring during construction of the Merricourt Wind project in North Dakota’s Dickey and McIntosh counties, and argued the same thing could be enforced in Minnesota.
EDF contended that the requirements are non-specific to the Stoneray project and are generally a statewide issue that needs to be addressed by policymakers.
The union proposal came up one vote short, but Pranis said unions would continue to stress the importance of local hiring.
“We’ll keep pursuing the conversation with developers, and I anticipate that we will have other opportunities to discuss these issues with the commission as well as state and local elected officials as additional projects come forward,” he said.