Library from Minnesota
Minnesota is barren of fossil fuels, with no crude oil, natural gas or coal reserves. Yet its renewable energy potential is gigantic, if so far mostly unused, awaiting the right conditions for that power to be tapped. In 2007, that moment has finally arrived. A potent mixture of economic opportunity, environmental alarm, national security anxiety and political realignment is making this the year Minnesota breaks from its fossil-fuel past and moves toward a future of homegrown energy produced from the wind, from its farms, its forests and prairies. In his inaugural address Tuesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty embraced the vision so passionately that he made amends to ‘visionaries in the conservation and environmental movement,’ who two decades ago were urging Minnesota to adopt a greener energy future, but were laughed at by state leaders.
Five Wind Turbines are on their way to Odin Township this fall, after conditional use permits were approved by Watonwan County December 27 at a board meeting. These Wind Turbines are part of five separate LLCs that will each build and generate energy on a 2 megawatt wind turbine in Odin Township. The land the wind farms will be located on is corn and soybean cropland owned by Noel P. Rahn, Partner in Charge of Rahn Group Investment Firm. The land will continue to be used for farming these crops as well as wind energy.
Construction of a 63-unit wind energy farm that will stretch across four Mower County townships and provide additional energy for Austin residents received the Mower County Board of Commissioners’ unequivocal support Tuesday. Both High Prairie Wind Farm II’s environmental assessment and a conditional use permit to construct, operate and maintain a 161 kv substation and high voltage transmission line powered by wind energy were approved. A week ago, the Mower County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the twin requests.
A wind turbine tower waits to be built in a forest of already constructed towers on land just north of Taopi in this file photo.
The New Ulm Public Utilities Commission Tuesday approved a $41.3 million budget for 2007, narrowed the water tower site selection to three sites and authorized $200,000 in pre-development costs for converting the No. 4 boiler to coal/biomass fuel and developing a nine-Megawatt wind farm.
The Mower County Board approved a permit for a new substation to be built near Grand Meadow. The new substation will allow for more electricity to be created through the use of wind turbines.
A project that will bring 86 wind energy turbines to Mower County moved closer to gaining approval Tuesday. High Prairie Wind Farm II, LLC received the Mower County Planning Commission's endorsement of an environmental assessment report on its plans to construct a 161 kv substation and a 161 kv high voltage transmission line. In addition, the petitioner received the commission's endorsement of its request for a conditional use permit for the twin items in Section 23, Clayton Township.
After an extensive discussion, the County Board agreed to hold off on approving conditional use permits for five wind farm turbines in Odin Township. The commissioners agreed to recess the meeting and reconvene to talk about approving the conditional use permits. The commissioners requested that they receive a written legal opinion that verifies it is the county’s position and not the state’s position to make the decision on permitting the wind turbines in Odin. Because a statute says any combination of wind energy systems of 5 megawatts or more must be approved by the state, County Attorney LaMar Piper did not approve having the county commissioners grant the conditional use permits for the wind turbines.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants Minnesotans to draw a quarter of their power from renewable sources by 2025, and he suggested the state punish utilities that fall short. Pawlenty sketched out his energy goal Tuesday in a speech to an agriculture and energy summit and delved into more detail later at a legislative session preview forum organized by The Associated Press. “We intend for it to have teeth in the form of financial penalties,” Pawlenty said. Without getting specific, he said he wants the fines to be “significant.”
A new report, prepared at the behest of the Legislature, argues that if lawmakers focus on policies to extend transmission lines, they could boost the state’s share of electricity generated by wind turbines to 25 percent. That would be about an eightfold increase from today. The Midwest Wind Integration Study, released Wednesday, said the cost of integrating wind power into existing utility systems would be less than half a cent for each kilowatt hour produced. But that doesn’t mean wind-power projects will be cheap. The study doesn’t estimate the cost of building new transmission lines to reach wind turbines scattered across the state and the region. “Knowing we can’t just plunk all this energy on the system right now,” the goal of the study was to say what’s possible after millions of dollars of investment, said Mark Ahlstrom, chief executive of WindLogics, a St. Paul consulting firm that worked on the report. “It’s possible — not today, but in coming years– if we’re interested in doing this.”
Whether you’re interested in reducing our dependency on foreign oil, saving the planet, or making a buck, sustainable energy is a hot topic on an increasingly hotter planet. This past Thursday members of Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) collaborated with the West Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (WCRSDP) and the Western Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTS). Together the groups sponsored a bus tour meant to bring together representatives from a number of avenues of society with the intention of edifying them in Community Based Renewable Energy Development. In all, over 30 individuals representing local government, members of academia, private investors and landowners, public utilities, non-profit organizations went along for the ride.
Our appetite for energy is growing fast, but the supply isn’t keeping up. Now a group of power companies that serve two million Minnesota customers wants to upgrade or build new transmission lines across the state. The proposed routes are from Ortonville, Minn. north to Morris, Minn., from Ortonville east to Willmar, Minn. and from Ortonville south to Granite Falls, Minn. Now, a battle is brewing over the power line plans.
Wind power looks increasingly like a rising economic star for western Minnesota. But before the three-bladed turbines rise in their local skies, representatives from communities in Swift, Chippewa and Yellow Medicine counties went looking to the University of Minnesota-Morris for help. There, wind power research being conducted by the West Central Minnesota Research and Outreach Center is helping find the answers they seek on the economic and logistical challenges of tapping this energy source.
The road to the development of wind energy in Kandiyohi County is paved with giant tasks: Finding investors. Doing a wind study. Doing a study of energy transmission lines. Negotiating power contracts. Local organizers believe it’s feasible, however — and they’re taking initial steps to explore it further.
"The package is what makes it work,'' said Brian Zelenak, manager of regulatory administration for Xcel Energy, contending the approach has economic and environmental advantages. Xcel would buy 375 megawatts of power from Manitoba Hydro beginning in 2015 and buy or generate 380 megawatts of wind power by 2015. Wind power, which is not always available, would complement the Manitoba Hydro power, which would be 95 percent hydroelectric and would be available during peak hours.
Purchasing wind turbines seems to be the popular move for campuses across Minnesota. Following in Macalester’s footsteps, Carleton and St. Olaf built 1.65 Megawatt turbines on their campus properties in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Macalester installed an urban wind turbine on campus April 23, 2003. In the next few weeks, David Wheaton, Vice President for Administration and Finance, will decide whether Macalester will purchase a second wind turbine that would be located in Stevens County, in western Minnesota.
Storden — If you have driven down Highway 30 about two miles east of Storden you would have seen a lot of heavy equipment working in the fields both south and north of Highway 30. A new farmer owned wind farm is being built along the Red Rock Ridge. According to a contractor supervisor, there will be twenty 2.5 megawatt Clipper turbines.