Municipal Wind Power in Minnesota

AUGUST 2009, MN - The city of Chaska, Minnesota, will soon have an 80-foot-tall wind turbine generating clean, renewable electricity for local residents and businesses. The Pioneer Ridge Wind Turbine is just one of the eleven turbines that will be installed through the Hometown WindPower program created by the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (MMPA). After holding an open house and a neighborhood meeting to gather citizen input, the Pioneer Ridge Middle School site was chosen after a variety of factors were considered including visibility, proximity to existing power sources, educational value, and impact to neighbors. Construction could begin as soon as September, 2009.

"Hometown WindPower will put power generation right into the community where it will be used."
—Derick Dahlen, Avant Energy

The Hometown WindPower program began in 2006, when MMPA began an ambitious program to locate wind turbines for their 11 member communities across the state of Minnesota. The Agency is owned by its member cities and governed by a board of directors with representatives from each community working together to provide competitively priced, reliable and sustainable energy to their local customers. Now, five of the member communities, Chaska, Anoka, Buffalo, North Saint Paul, and Shakopee, have entered the planning stage for their wind power projects this year.

The program was designed by Avant Energy, a Minneapolis firm that provides services to municipal utilities and public power agencies. "Wind power is most efficient when it can be used at the point of generation, rather than being transmitted many miles away," says Avant Energy president Derick Dahlen. "Hometown WindPower will put power generation right into the community where it will be used, and it will happen using a clean, endlessly renewable source of power."

A turbine in Anoka, recently approved by the city council with a 4-1 vote, will be located near the Anoka High School with construction slated to begin this fall. Buffalo has selected a site at Buffalo High School near the Buffalo water tower. North St. Paul has selected a site by a public works garage. The 165-kilowatt wind turbines with 80-foot towers and 35-foot blades are refurbished machines from California purchased for $300,000 each. Hometown WindPower will help MMPA meet its Minnesota state requirement to achieve a renewable energy standard (RES) of 25 percent by 2025.

Willmar Municipal Utilities wind turbine
 
Willmar Municipal Utilities
wind turbine

Municipal wind power projects are developed by small political subdivisions of cities and townships, rural electrification cooperatives, and other municipal entities or municipally owned corporations that provide electric transmission, distribution or generation services. Advantages of municipal wind power projects include the ability of a local government body to manage the regulatory process and to arrange for public meetings during the planning process along with the use of public lands for siting.

While these projects are much smaller than commercial wind farms with megawatt-scale tubines, they demonstrate how local government and public utilities can provide their own clean energy from sustainable resources. Hometown WindPower is a prime example of how Community Wind is being used in small communities to help keep energy costs stable by creating a long-term fixed price for the power, providing a hedge against rising fuel costs, such as coal and natural gas.

Other Minnesota municipalities are using wind power for these benefits as well.

Willmar Municipal Utilities recently completed construction of two wind turbines that will be used to power about 3% of the city's electric needs. These 262-foot, 2-MW DeWind wind turbines were manufactured in Round Rock, Texas, with blades made in Germany, and the steel tower sections built in Nebraska. The city of Willmar is using bonding to spread out the cost over a 10- to 15-year period. Over the 20-year life of the turbines, the projected cost for each kilowatthour of electricity produced is less than 5 cents.

Capture the Wind Turbines in North Moorhead
Capture the Wind Turbines
in North Moorhead

Moorhead Public Service (MPS) was a pioneer in 1999 erecting a .75-MW wind turbine, followed by a second turbine in 2001. MPS instituted a Capture the Wind program allowing residents and local businesses to help support the municipal wind project by paying additional fees of no more than a half-penny per kWh. This allows customers the opportunity to make a positive environmental choice to support clean, renewable energy by paying a little extra without impacting other customers who do not choose to support the project. The program was so popular that the subscription targets for both turbines were achieved within their first months of being offered, and customers went on waiting lists to join the program with extended offerings.

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