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County to assess role of EDA

On the third day of the new year, the Winona County Economic Development Authority Rural Development subcommittee took another slow but sure step toward the construction of a $3 million wind turbine.

According to EDA member Anne Morse, the group recently took possession of two meteorological towers on loan from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.


A meteorological tower, or met tower, is a structure that is typically between forty and fifty meters tall and provides a setting for an anemometer, a device that gauges wind. While wind studies are helpful in determining the best location for a turbine, a met tower will provide concrete data concerning wind patterns in a certain area, Morse explained.

One of the met towers will be erected in Mount Vernon Township, between two sites that are being considered for the placement of the 2 megawatt wind turbine, Morse said. However, before the tower can be erected, a conditional use permit has to be granted by the county and a license agreement signed by the landowners in Mount Vernon Township, she explained. “It’s all still in the works,” Morse said.

Placement of the second tower has yet to be determined and most likely the tower will be moved around more regularly, Morse continued. Placement in Fremont Township is one possibility, but the group is willing to consider different suggestions, she added.

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According to EDA member Anne Morse, the group recently took possession of two meteorological towers on loan from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.


A meteorological tower, or met tower, is a structure that is typically between forty and fifty meters tall and provides a setting for an anemometer, a device that gauges wind. While wind studies are helpful in determining the best location for a turbine, a met tower will provide concrete data concerning wind patterns in a certain area, Morse explained.

One of the met towers will be erected in Mount Vernon Township, between two sites that are being considered for the placement of the 2 megawatt wind turbine, Morse said. However, before the tower can be erected, a conditional use permit has to be granted by the county and a license agreement signed by the landowners in Mount Vernon Township, she explained. “It’s all still in the works,” Morse said.

Placement of the second tower has yet to be determined and most likely the tower will be moved around more regularly, Morse continued. Placement in Fremont Township is one possibility, but the group is willing to consider different suggestions, she added.

In addition to continuing its progress with the Community Winds of Winona project, the EDA Rural Development subcommittee also developed a list of goals for 2006. As a response to a recent County Board decision to make encouraging further renewable energy development within the county a 2006 board goal, the subcommittee elected to develop initiatives that would aid the board in achieving this goal. The 2006 Rural Development subcommittee goals include:

1. Complete an internal county energy audit.

2. Determine how much energy is consumed in the county to develop a baseline total.

3. Investigate two to three additional energy programs, focusing on sources such as solar, geothermal, anaerobic digesters, etc.

4. Sponsor one to two educational events featuring energy conservation in the county.

5. Help rural landowners erect three additional small-scale turbines within the county.

6. Encourage local educational institutes to develop renewable energy course and curriculum.

7. Research what it would take for the county to become a net energy producer by 2015.

At the Committee of the Board meeting on Tuesday, the county commissioners indicated their approval of the EDA subcommittee goals with a unanimous vote.

However, some commissioners voiced concerns over the funding of the EDA and its role as a core function of the county. The board decided informally that the EDA, its funding and its role within the county will be assessed in May. The EDA was approved in 2005 for a one-year trial period that will expire in the month of June, according to County Administrator Bob Reinert.

In other news the EDA Rural Development and Local Foods subcommittees have begun finalizing the details for informational events to be held in February and March.

In February, the Rural Development subcommittee plans to hold two workshops focusing on wind energy. One workshop will solicit
involvement from local lenders who could finance the purchase of farm-scale turbines while the other will cater to potential owners of such turbines.

The lender workshop will target local bankers and financial institutions and strive to acquaint them with the financial aspect of wind energy and turbines. The objective will be to educate local lenders so that potential turbine owners in Winona and surrounding counties will be able to find adequate financing. The turbine owner workshop will bring potential turbine owners in contact with people who already own turbines and with equipment vendors, wind energy experts and information about various grant and loan programs.

The owner workshop is tentatively scheduled to support a panel discussion and question and answer session with turbine owners, turbine manufacturers and area lenders. A keynote speaker is also planned for the event but has not yet been confirmed. The workshops are intended to provide an opportunity for county residents to learn about wind energy, turbine equipment, costs, available financing and the return on the investment.

“We’ve seen a lot of general abstract discussion, but this will be the real nuts and bolts,” said EDA member Dwayne Voegeli. “We’re ready to move from the discussion stage to the action stage.”

The workshops are tentatively scheduled to be held on the same day at the Community Center in Lewiston. However, an exact date and time has yet to be set pending the availability of preferred key note speakers.

On March 10, the Local Foods subcommittee will hold a Local Foods Expo at the Event Center at Signatures restaurant. According to EDA Chair Jim Riddle, the event will be a “functional” expo designed to connect buyers and growers of local foods.

The committee plans to invite farmers and food processors from Winona County and all contiguous counties. Different types of buyers, including the school district, the local universities, restaurants, nursing homes and the local co-op, will also be invited to attend. The subcommittee has already begun developing a guest list that will also include a number of local and statewide organizations like the Local Foods Network, the Farmers Union, the USDA and the Department of Agriculture.

The day-long event will feature educational speakers as well as provide the opportunity for networking. A locally-produced meal will also be served for a nominal fee. EDA member Jim Heaser pointed out the logic of serving a locally-produced meal at an event showcasing local foods. “We wouldn’t want to serve doughnuts from Israel and corn from Brazil,” he chuckled.

According to Riddle, an exact budget for the event has not yet been set. The major costs for the event will be the rental of the center, the meal and the speakers, he continued. Riddle estimated that the maximum “out of pocket” cost for the EDA will be around $2,000.

According to EDA Coordinator Linda Grover, the Local Foods group will have a firmer grasp of the specifics of the event at the next subcommittee meeting, to be held at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 25.
 

Source: http://www.winonapost.com/s...

JAN 14 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/973-county-to-assess-role-of-eda
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