Minnesota's Wind of Progress

July 21, 2009 - 2:23pm -- Anonymous

The State of Minnesota has a legislative mandate that utilities purchase or generate 25 percent of their electric power from renewable resources by 2025; and in the case of Xcel Energy, 30 percent by 2020. The majority of this new renewable energy is expected to come from wind energy, and a new study by Minnesota 2020 Fellow Nathan Paine outlines what some of the benefits of this expansion of wind power would mean for the state. Here are some key points from Minnesota's Winds of Progress:

  • Construction of more than 4,000 MW of wind farms
    (enough to power 1 million homes)
  • $9 billion total added to Minnesota's economy
  • $1.5 billion (additional) annually into Minnesota towns
  • 2,200 new jobs during construction
  • 900 sustained jobs during operation

The economic impact of this shift to renewable energy is not just numbers for investors and wind farm owners and operators. A major impact would be an increase to the job base in manufacturing and construction, as well as for wind-related services including operation and maintenance. With Minnesota's unemployment rate jumping over 8 percent this year, the highest in more than 20 years, this is promising news for an economic recovery that can land on Main Street.

“This isn't some far-off dream. Minnesota can make the transition fast,” notes Trent Wells at MinnPost. Minnesota is already one of the fastest growing states for wind energy, just behind Iowa and Texas, and we already have the infrastructure in place with Minnesota companies working in the wind industry and manufacturing companies in sore need of new work.

For example, Duluth-based Northstar Aerospace laid off most of its 115 workers last year when production orders dropped as the recession hit hard. "When we were down and out, we had to get creative and find other industries we could serve," stated Northstar's president and CEO John Eagleton. Recently, the company has been recalling workers back after diversifying beyond airplanes into medical devices and wind turbine components.

To enable this transition, the study recommends localizing wind turbine manufacturing while partnering with advanced global companies for technology transfer, providing assistance to Minnesota companies to meet the high technology requirements of the wind industry, and increasing workforce training for both new and displaced workers.

Here is a video summary:

Minnesota's Winds of Progress from Minnesota 2020 on Vimeo.

Here is the study:

Some Rights Reserved

Minnesota's Winds of Progress by Nathan Paine, published by Minnesota 2020 is distributed under a Creative Commons license with some rights reserved.