Case Studies

Bureau Valley School District, Bereau Valley, IL: Community Wind Project

Schoolyards and Wind Turbines: Bureau Valley School District Gets a Turbine

MANLIUS, IL--Locating a power plant in a schoolyard would have probably caused quite an uproar at PTA meetings everywhere a decade ago, but this is 2006 and times have changed. Keith Bolin, a hog farmer from northern Illinois, not only supports the idea, he took the lead in developing such a project in his hometown. Bolin, a father of three and a new grandpa, knows the importance of a good education and a quality school district. That is precisely why he spent two and a half years working to get a 660 kW Vestas wind turbine constructed at Bureau Valley High School.

He and his wife, Barbara, operate an outside farrow-to-finish hog operation in Bureau County and raise corn, oats, and alfalfa. Keith has farmed there since 1978, and he knows the land. He realized how windy it was in his area and started to discuss the possibilities of wind energy with his wife over the dinner table. They began to look into it together and after learning about successful turbines powering schools in Iowa at an American Corn Growers Association Conference in 2000 they were finally convinced that they had a viable site and good match with Bureau Valley High. They began to talk seriously with other people about the idea.

Bolin met Jesper Michaelsen from Vestas at a wind conference in Chicago and got him excited about the project. They applied for their first grant in July of 2002 and received $20,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. They used those funds to hire consultant Jay Haley of EAPC Architects and Engineers to perform their wind resource assessment. Haley did an extensive study of the site and also took advantage of data from Monmouth College and the nearby Crescent Ridge commercial wind farm. That first grant was crucial to get the project moving. The school would never have been able to invest that much money just to see if the project was feasible. But with the study complete, and wind resource data in hand, they were confident that they had a good project and could move forward.

And he continued to lead the way. "I'm just a dirt hog farmer. I'm not the smartest guy on the block," Bolin said, but "somebody had to take the bull by the horns." Bolin views his greatest contribution as a trust builder between the local people of Bureau Valley and the "outsiders, the corporate people" who came to build the turbine. “For a community project, it takes a person or a group that really believes in it to lead and organize and to spur the professionals on. Somebody has to volunteer to be the leader. Paid professionals usually have other obligations - the superintendent has to focus on educating children, the engineer has other projects. That means a volunteer has to keep everything moving.” And keep it moving he did.

Bolin was able to secure an additional $480,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Illinois Department of Commerce. He and his wife secured financing for the rest. “When it came time to find the term lender, Barb and I shopped around for the best rates on the remainder and ended up getting financing for $450,000 from Union Bank using tax free bonds at a rate of 3.37%.” They were still a little short, but made up the difference with the school’s operation and maintenance fund.

The school planned to use the turbine primarily to offset their electricity generation. Any excess generation will be sold to the local utility at their avoided cost of three cents. “We didn’t really negotiate with the local utility (Illinois Power), they’re just paying us their tariff rate. The real value of our project comes from reducing our electricity costs rather than selling the extra power. This was another reason we chose the 660 kW turbine. For us there’s not much advantage in producing much more electricity than we use. The fastest pay back comes from us not consuming $0.08-0.11/kWhr electricity since we can only sell it at $0.03 or so per kilowatt-hour.” Altogether Bolin expects total revenue for the project to be about $1.6 million. That could increase if the electricity rates go up faster than they estimated, or the turbine lasts longer than the expected 20 years.

The public raised some concerns during the process about noise, construction, and danger to birds in open-forum town meetings, where the turbine's architect, lawyers, and supporters were present to answer questions. Bolin said such consistent, informative communication minimized anxiety and skepticism about the project. "People need to be informed," he said. "They want to know, 'How's it doing?'" He added, "They're pretty proud of what they've done." Eventually, the community embraced the project, said Superintendent Rick Stoecker. “We could have put bleachers out there” during construction, lots of people were watching.”

Once the project was approved, the site was prepared and the turbine was installed in two months. The turbine went on-line in January of 2005, making Bureau Valley High School the first school in the state to install a turbine. In the first seven months of operation, the turbine's computerized records showed that it produced 646,397 kilowatt-hours of energy for the school and consumed only 2,715 for itself. Stoecker estimates that the turbine has saved the school district approximately $100,000 each year. “That’s two teacher’s [salaries] a year,” says Bolin.

The district considers the turbine to be a great way to earn some money, teach students about renewable energy, and help the environment. Bolin's next project was to incorporate the turbine into the school's curriculum, possibly as a business model, an agricultural project, and a study in engineering. Principal Terry Gutshall liked the idea and planned to start with physics class.

The project has inspired many other schools districts to look into wind energy for themselves. Stoecker has had so many calls about the project that he “doesn’t have time to name them all… We’ve had lots and lots of calls.” With so many other districts looking to cut costs around the state, Bureau Valley will create an exhibit and presentation that will be touted at state school board conventions, he said.

"This is probably the most significant thing I've ever done that's made a difference," Stoeker said of the turbine. "I'm real proud of it." Bolin is equally proud and has no regrets. “I would certainly do all this again and I wouldn’t really change much. We’ve tried to involve the community, politicians and the media; it’s been a very positive experience.”

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Carleton College, Northfield, MN: Community Wind Project

Wind Energy in Higher Education
Case Study: Carleton College Northfield, Minnesota

CARLETON COLLEGE has a 350-foot tall mascot that is setting a new trend among universities by providing both revenue for the school and clean energy for the community. In September 2004, Carleton College dedicated the first college or university owned commercial-scale wind turbine in the nation to complement the college’s environmental statement, which aims to “be a model of environmental stewardship by incorporating ideals of sustainability into the operations of the college and the daily life of individuals.”

The 1.65 megawatt (MW) turbine is located about a mile and a half east of Carleton’s Northfield, Minnesota campus and has become “a popular destination for runners and bikers,” according to Carleton student Dave Holman. “Students love it, the community loves it, and alumni double love it…because it makes sound economic, PR, and ecological sense.”

A bit of friendly rivalry is common among schools, and other nearby universities are getting in on the action as well. Already, the University of Minnesota at Morris has installed a 1.65 MW wind turbine, and St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN is anticipating commissioning a 1.65 MW turbine in July 2006. Holman encourages the rivalry “because when we compete to do good things for society, everybody wins…and tell Olaf that Carleton’s currently winning,” he jokes.

Carleton College is a “local pioneer,” according to Bruce Anderson of RENew Northfield, demonstrating the economic and performance viability of wind development in the community. As the Project Manager f Facilities Planning and Management, Rob Lmppa says that this has been a “great learning experience.” And he is not alone. Already, Lamppa has given 50-60 tours of the turbine to school groups, individuals, and other bus loads of interested groups.

Integrating Wind in the Classroom
Many school wind projects are partially motivated by the educational opportunities in math, science, business, policy, and environmental studies, which are preparing their students with skills in a fast-growing industry. At Carleton, a variety of departments have been involved in various stages of the turbine project, such as, blade design, wind mapping for site assessment, and data conversion. For example, each month, the Carleton College Physics Department posts the wind production data in their building to keep tabs on the turbine electrical generation and revenue stream, over $384,000 to date.

Laying the Groundwork for University Wind Energy

Carleton’s installation of a 1.65 Vestas turbine was the culmination of approximately two years of planning and project development as well as an integral part of larger plans for greater Carleton campus sustainability and active renewable energy planning in the Northfield community.

During the summer of 2002, local citizens group RENew Northfield helped to convene a Northfield community wind energy task force that included the City of Northfield, the Northfield School District, Carleton College, and St. Olaf College. The task force identified a windy site on a farm about 1.5 miles east of Carleton’s campus. The college’s Board of Trustees officially approved the project in February 2004 and the project proceeded on schedule, commissioning and dedicating its turbine in September 2004.

Now that the local community has lived with the turbine for nearly a year and a half, Anderson says that there is generally “broad and strong support for the Carleton wind turbine.” A number of people have called his office at RENew Northfield just to say that they are thankful that the Carleton turbine is in their community. Anderson adds, “many view this project as a symbol of progress and pride in the community.”

Wind Economics and Policy
Electricity from the wind turbine is being sold to Xcel Energy for local use in the Northfield area. Xcel is paying 3.3 cents per kWh through a fixed 20 year contract, under the terms of Xcel’s standard small wind tariff (available for wind projects under 2 MW in Minnesota).

In addition to selling electricity to Xcel, Carleton is receiving 1.5 cents per kWh generated from the State of Minnesota via the Minnesota Renewable Energy Payment Incentive (MN REPI) program. The $1.8 million project at Carleton also was aided by a $150,000 “Community Wind Rebate” from the state of Minnesota. The rest of the capital expenditure was provided from Carleton directly.

The college expects to recoup its investment with interest within 10 to 12 years. After two semesters of independent study on the economics of the turbine, Holman suggests that “Carleton should invest in a wind farm as part of its endowment because it is an incredibly good investment. Wind for Carleton has the risk level of a bond, but returns like a stock with 8-12% per year. In addition to a yearly revenue stream of about $250,000, the PR value of the turbine has been immeasurable.”

Campus Sustainability
By generating wind power, the college offsets about 40% of its electricity use, significantly reducing harmful emissions of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. Over the life of the turbine, the college will avoid producing 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is important to students at Carleton who view the turbine as “a very strong piece of their school’s identity,” according to one student.

Paving the Way - St. Olaf and Others Follow Suit
Carleton might find itself to be a trendsetter if other colleges and universities in the Midwest continue to follow through on their own plans to install wind turbines. St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota at Morris, as well as some k-12 schools are catching on to the benefits of installing a wind turbine. St. Olaf College, located just across town in Northfield, received a $1.5 million grant from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development fund to install a turbine of their own to match Carleton’s machine. Commissioning is scheduled for July 2006. St. Olaf intends to use the energy directly for its campus rather than sell it to the grid, and expects to supply approximately 30% of the campus electricity demand with wind each year.

St. Olaf also has plans to incorporate the turbine into curriculum with “a really cool set of courses called Campus Ecology I and II in our environmental studies program,” according to Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice President for Facilities at St. Olaf. The turbine will also likely be integrated into an interim course looking at sustainable and renewable materials, in addition to, energy. “I think the educational uses will multiply pretty quickly beyond anything we can imagine right now,” says Sandberg.

When asked if the college is pleased with the turbine experience thus far, Sandberg echoed the comments of many who have worked in wind project development: “It has been very challenging!”

The community around St. Olaf has been generally supportive of the project. According to Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice president for Facilities at St. Olaf, “we've had only positive feed back – no opposition, in fact, at the public hearing for the county conditional use permit, a Northfield realtor spoke, and said he believed that the value of properties with a view of the other turbine in Northfield were enhanced!”

Why is a wind turbine such a good fit for schools and universities? “We generated most of our electricity for most of our history,” says Sandberg about the college as its own utility. “We see it as just another way we contribute to keeping the place going as efficiently as possible.”

In the first quarter of 2006, St. Olaf College signed a turbine purchase contract with Vestas, and has installed the footings, transformer, and wiring in the new electrical equipment control room. Construction is scheduled for completion in July 2006. All of the work to date has been paid from college capital funds allocated to the project, which includes the first installment payment of $400,000 to Vestas.

To the northwest, the University of Minnesota at Morris broke ground for its own Vestas 1.65 MW turbine in November 2004, and began producing electricity for the campus in March 2005. Installed at the University’s West Central Research and Outreach Center, the turbine is the first commercial-scale wind energy project at a public university. The turbine supplies the campus with 5.6 million kWh per year, which is more than half of its electricity needs. Many colleges and universities around the U.S. that don’t have wind resources enough for their energy needs are purchasing green power to support renewables on campus. View a list of universities purchasing green power on the Green Power Network.

As has been demonstrated by multiple successful k-12 school projects in Minnesota and Iowa, wind turbines can be a great fit for educational institutions because they provide a clean energy, a new source of revenue and educational opportunities for students. Also schools sometimes have the option of using a wind turbine to directly offset their energy use, which can be a significant economic advantage.

As more and more schools across the nation “go green” in a variety of ways, the Midwest is leading the way for wind.

More information:
Community Wind website - wind in schools
Carleton College - history of the wind turbine RENew Northfield
Clean Energy Resources Teams Case Study
St. Olaf's turbine

Windustry Updates

Community Wind Conference Wrap Up
Thank you to everyone who participated at the second national Community Wind Energy Conference in March 2006 in Des Moines, Iowa. Over 500 people from 32 states and 3 countries joined the discussion to advance community wind energy development.
The conference proceedings are now available online.

Windustry is growing!
Windustry brought 3 new staff members on board in the past year to continue expanding the scope and depth of our work. Brian Antonich was an intern with Windustry for two summers before joining full-time as Small Wind Program Analyst. Brian received his Masters Degree in 2005 from the University of Washington in Electrical Engineering, focusing on wind energy systems. Cole McVey moved from North Carolina in October 2005, where she worked with the Appalachian State University Energy Center and Small Wind Initiative, to Minnesota to work as Program Associate with Windustry. Dave Tidball joined Windustry in June of 2005 to help expand the number and range of projects with administrative support. Lisa Daniels and Sarah Johnson remain fixtures on the Windustry team.
About the Windustry team

Windustry Membership
Join Windustry today. Help us continue to increase wind energy opportunities for rural landowners and communities and provide sound information and technical support. Becoming a member of Windustry builds a strong base of advocacy for public policy that supports community wind. As a non-profit organization, Windustry depends on the support of foundations, government contracts, and people who use our information and services. If you appreciate our work and would like to support our development, become a member of Windustry today!

Windustry’s Networks Expand
With our growing team of staff and support, Windustry has been able to expand our programs as well:

Home and Farm Windustry
WINDUSTRY HAS ADDED a home and farm-scale wind energy program to our menu of resource offerings. Also known as small wind, this program will focus on technical and policy issues for turbines under 100kW in size. Contact Brian Antonich at 612/870-3465, or visit: www.windustry.org/smallwind

Community Wind Listserv
When we talk about community wind, we are generally describing commercial-scale wind turbines and projects that feature local ownership and participation and are generally larger than 100 kW. To join this active wind discussion group to keep posted on today's most current news and issues surrounding community wind development!

Women of Wind Energy (WOWE) a group of individuals who support and encourage the participation of professional women in the wind energy industry by providing networking opportunities and student sponsorships. WOWE, formed in 2005 and housed at Windustry, has an online listserv and website.

We also maintain our Wind Farmers Network, an online forum for farmers, landowners, and others to ask questions, discuss current issues, and share experiences with wind energy development. Windustry launched the Wind Farmers Network in 2004, and now has over 1,100 members joined in the dialogue. If you would like to join the Wind Farmers Network, visit www.windfarmersnetwork.org, or call Windustry at (612)870-3461 with questions.

Visit Windustry at the Minnesota State Fair
AUGUST 24 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2006.
Windustry will host hands-on and interactive exhibits in the new EcoExperience Building on the State Fair Grounds.
MN State Fair

Wind Energy News

WINDPOWER 2006
Windustry staff joined 5,000 other members of the wind industry in the annual American Wind Energy Association conference. At this year's event, June 5-7 in Pittsburgh, PA, Windustry participated hosted the Community Wind Update Meeting, Women of Wind Energy Networking Luncheon, and participated in the Small Wind Stakeholders Meeting and the Wind Powering America All States Summit. It was a marathon week for Windustry in PA, but we look forward to seeing you all again next year!
AWEA 2006 Conference website

Clean Renewable Energy Bonds
Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) are a new financing tool released by the United States Treasury, to provide an incentive for publicly-owned renewable energy projects that do not qualify for federal Production Tax Credits (PTCs). The $800 million available between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007 is for any governmental entity (including tribal governments) or electric cooperative company that applied by the April 26th, 2006 deadline. Stay tuned to hear how CREBs turn out for public wind energy projects. More information on CREBs at the Environmental Law and Policy Center Site.

Case Studies on Iowa Wind

These case studies are from the Iowa Energy Center. Click here to view the case studies.

Wind Projects

Staples Residence, New Providence, IA (PDF 1.48 MB)
Wind Turbine

Akron-Westfield Schools, Akron, IA (PDF 174 KB)
Wind Turbine

Ashler Residence, Hamburg, IA (PDF 645 KB)
Wind Turbine

Clarion-Goldfield Schools, Clarion, IA (PDF 185 KB)
Wind Turbine

Eldora-New Providence Schools, Eldora, IA (PDF 170 KB)
Wind Turbine

Forest City Schools, Forest City, IA (PDF 171KB)
Wind Turbine

Hawkeye Dental, Ely, IA (PDF 1.23 MB)
Wind Turbine

Montgomery Residence, Bryan, IA (PDF 567 KB)
Wind Turbine

Neppel Energy, LCC, Armstrong, IA (PDF 236 KB)
Wind Turbine

Spirit Lake Schools, Spirit Lake, Iowa (PDF 151 KB)
Wind Turbine

Tjaden Farms, Charles City, IA (648 KB)
Wind Turbine

Tran Lam Residence, Vinton, IA (PDF 712 KB)
Wind Turbine

Eldora-New Providence Community Schools Community Wind Project

 

Reading, Writing, Wind Energy & Arithmetic Construction of the Eldora-New Providence wind turbine

Case Study: Eldora, Iowa
From his office in the small central Iowa town of Eldora, Eldora-New Providence Community School District Superintendent Bill Grove can see the money his district is saving in energy costs every day by tracking the performance of the wind turbine standing on the grounds of the high school.

The 750 kW NEG Micon turbine was installed last fall after years of talks, negotiations, setbacks and planning with the school board and the local utility. The idea of the Eldora-New Providence school district producing its own electricity from wind power was conceived in the mid-1990s when school officials were brainstorming ways to save money. The first step was a meeting with the local utility, IES Utilities, Inc. (now part of the Madison, WI based Alliant Energy), that turned out to be crucial to the ultimate success of the project. “The utility vice president’s jaw hit the floor when he realized that we weren’t making any demands, just asking if we could all work together. They’re not used to being approached like that and it really set a positive tone that served us all well in the end,” said Grove.

The original plan for the project called for installing a 250 kW turbine at the high school, which would have closely matched the electricity needs of that building, the district’s largest electricity user. However, the first interconnection agreement offered by Alliant would not have produced a positive revenue stream for the school district, creating the first of many hurdles for the project. Eventually, by going through the Iowa Utilities Board, the district secured an arrangement where the wind turbine’s electricity would offset the high school’s electricity use, extra energy would be sold to Alliant at the avoided cost rate, and any additional energy needed by the high school would be purchased from the utility at retail rate.

With the legal issues settled, Grove and the school board hoped to move forward quickly with constructing the wind turbine. They hired wind energy consultant Tom Wind to do a feasibility study and recommend the best site for the turbine. However, the project’s second major obstacle appeared when the district did not receive a single bid for installing a 250 kW machine. They discovered that most wind turbine manufacturers were moving toward larger, more profitable machines and were phasing out the 250 kW turbines.

With all the plans revolving around buying a 250 kW turbine, the project easily could have fallen apart with this setback. However, the spirit of cooperation established in that very first meeting with the utility reemerged to save the project. Alliant offered to allow the Eldora-New Providence schools to use the electricity generated by a larger turbine to offset all of the district’s electricity use, rather than just the high school’s consumption. Grove was careful to point out that the utility might not offer this particular arrangement to everyone, but that the benefits of working cooperatively with the utility for this project could be a lesson for other schools.

With this new agreement, Tom Wind performed a new feasibility study for a 750 kW wind turbine. The numbers still looked favorable for the revised plan, thus in late 2001, the school district tried again to request bids, this time for the larger turbine. The second try proved more fruitful than the first and by March 2002 the district contracted with NEG Micon and had a turbine installed on October 21, 2002.

Grove expects the new turbine to generate enough electricity to offset the entire school district’s electricity bill and sell some power back to the utility. The energy savings and the extra revenue from selling electricity should be more than enough to cover the $97,729 annual loan payment. When the loan is paid off in ten years, all the savings and revenue will simply be extra money for the Eldora-New Providence schools. So far, the turbine is meeting and even exceeding these expectations.

Eldora wind turbine economics
The school district borrowed a total of $800,000 to finance the project– including the cost of the turbine, consultant and attorney fees, interconnection fees, and an extended 5-year warranty– and expects to pay off the loans in ten years. Part of the financing came through a $250,000 no interest loan from the Iowa Energy Bank, an energy management program run by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Energy Bureau. The remaining $550,000 was borrowed from the local Hardin County Savings Bank of Eldora at 5.5 percent interest. A slightly lower rate was available from a Des Moines bank, but the school board felt it was important to support the local business. Combined with the no interest loan, the average annual interest is only 2.1 percent. For the first 5 years, the district will also pay $8,000 for a maintenance contract with NEG Micon, but Grove hopes the district will have its own maintenance crew trained by the end of that time. This low-interest financing package combined with the area’s decent, but not outstanding wind resource made this project economically viable.

Today, the 160 foot tall turbine stands in a field just behind the high school where students and teachers see it every day. The physics class tracks the electricity production and uses the data for projects and to illustrate many ideas and concepts. “We’ve gotten just what we wanted,” said Grove, citing the school’s new role as an innovator in both education and environmental protection. And perhaps even more importantly, he said, “We have an inflation-proof investment for the next 25 years.”

Eldora-New Providence School District is the latest of half a dozen school districts in Iowa to invest in wind energy. Many more schools in Iowa, Minnesota and around the Midwest are exploring using wind power to reduce their energy costs. Grove alone has received more than a dozen inquiries about from other school districts. The Spirit Lake School District in northern Iowa was the pioneer for this kind of project, installing the first of its two wind turbines in 1992. For more information about wind energy and schools or other community-based wind projects, visit www.windustry.org/community.

Turbine Performance Data
The Eldora-New Providence School District is now posting its wind turbine performance data online:

http://www.eldora-np.k12.ia.us/enpdistrict/index.html

Wind Energy News
$23 million available for renewable energy and energy efficiency
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) in April inviting applications for the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grant Program, created in the 2002 farm bill. The program offers grants for renewable energy systems (including wind turbines) to agricultural producers and rural small businesses. The grants can be used to pay up to 25 percent of the cost of an eligible project. Next year the program will be expanded to include loans and loan guarantees if it does not fall victim to budget cuts. More information is available at www.windustry.org/resources/farmbill.htm or by calling your state’s USDA Rural Development Office. The deadline for applications is June 27, 2003.

Minnesota PUC approves Buffalo Ridge area power line
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission significantly advanced wind power in Minnesota by ordering Xcel Energy to proceed with building a new set of power lines and power line upgrades designed to bring wind power from southwestern Minnesota to the Twin Cities. In the March 11th Order, the PUC requires that the timeline for building the power lines match Xcel’s timeline for building wind turbines in the area, ensuring that the power line will be used to carry wind-generated electricity. Another condition requires Xcel to purchase up to 60 MW of wind owned by local farmers, communities and small businesses.

New Midwestern wind projects
Iowa: Iowa’s largest utility, Mid-American Energy, announced plans to build a 310 MW wind project in the state, which would be the largest land-based wind farm in the world.

North Dakota: Fergus Falls, Minnesota-based Otter Tail Power announced plans to purchase 21 MW of wind power capacity from a project to be owned by FPL Energy and built near Kulm, North Dakota by the end of 2003.

South Dakota : The first Native-American owned utility-scale wind turbine was installed on the Rosebud-Sioux reservation in South Dakota February 27, 2003.

November Conference Proceedings Now Available
Audio recordings, presentation visuals and links to additional information are available for nearly all of the 90 presentations made at Wind Energy: New Economic Opportunities conference in November: www.windustry.org/conference/proceedings.

Wind Energy Workshops/Events
May 18-21, 2003, Austin, Texas: WINDPOWER. The American Wind Energy Association's annual conference. Visit www.awea.org or call 202-383-2500.

June 19, 2003 – Oklahoma Wind Power and Bioenergy Conference, Norman, Oklahoma. For more information, contact Kylah Kissinger at 405-447-8412 or windgirl@ou.edu or visit www.seic.okstate.edu/owpi.

June 20-22, 2003 – Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, Custer, Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.the-mrea.org or contact the Midwest Renewable Energy Association at (715) 592-6595 or info@the-mrea.org.

About Windustry
Windustry builds collaborations and provides technical support to create an understanding of wind energy opportunities for economic development. Windustry recently incorporated as its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, but remains partnered with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, another non-profit that promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

Wind Farmers Network
The Wind Farmers Network now has financial support for development in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Watch www.windustry.org for more information in the coming months. The purpose of this initiative is to bring together a broad range of landowners, farmers and ranchers to exchange their experiences in wind development and educate others who would like to begin farming the wind. If you would like to join the network, please send your contact information and a brief sentence describing your wind energy interests to Windustry or join online at www.windustry.org/about/join.htm. Your information only may be shared within the network.

The Eldora-New Providence Community Schools installed a 750 kW wind turbine in October 2002. PDF gile of this study is online in the Spring 2003 Newsletter or visit the school's website.

Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative: Community Wind Project

Breaking the Mold: Rural Cooperative Wind Energy

Many cooperatives in the Midwest have been hesitant to venture into wind energy, but Sean Middleton, Manager of Engineering at the Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative (IREC), wanted to show them that it can be done. Middleton has been the driving force behind IREC’s installation of a utility-scale wind turbine in west central Illinois. “A main thrust of our project is to see economic growth for our area. We want our turbine to attract other wind developers and demonstrate that wind works here.” Illinois Rural Electric is a mid-size cooperative serving approximately 10,000 meters and 3000 miles of line in west central Illinois. The coop installed a Vestas 1.65 MW wind turbine in Pike County Illinois in 2005, making it Illinois’ first rural electric cooperative to own and operate a utility-scale turbine.

Many rural electric cooperatives in the Midwest serve areas with utility-grade wind resources but still have not built turbines due to contract constraints and other barriers. At the outset of the IREC project, many people wondered why their coop would be interested in building a wind turbine. Bruce Giffin, General Manager of the IREC, had the answer: “While it’s perfectly okay to use coal and/or natural gas to generate electricity, if you can use a renewable resource, that’s even better. It’s the right thing to do.”

Now that Middleton and the IREC have paved the way, there are many more opportunities for other cooperatives or small developers to enter the field. While the IREC’s wholesale contract limits how large their interest can be, the wind resource in Pike County could support the construction of 100 more similar-sized turbines. Giffin sees that great wind resource as an opportunity for Pike County’s residents and potential wind developers. Such a project “would add $5 million to $7 million to the tax base. Based on estimates from the turbine manufacturers, with 100 turbines, there could be $1.5 million in maintenance work income, which would produce an additional $5.25 million in economic activity in the county. If the resource is developed, there would be a significant economic development impact.” Counties other than Pike will also benefit. “If you’re a member of Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative, economic development in any of the counties it serves is good for members everywhere else. We share costs throughout the area, and growth anywhere on the system benefits all members.”

It takes more than just a great wind resource to develop a project however, as access to the market is a huge part of the siting process for a wind turbine. “Our process was very easy compared to a lot of other projects,” says Middleton. “We didn’t have to do a transmission interconnect because we’re connecting at the distribution level. Since we are a distribution utility, we’re really just feeding into ourselves. So the interconnect agreement is very short, I’m just agreeing to take power from myself. Part of this is showing other small utilities that you can successfully interconnect a wind turbine at the distribution level. Having your members use your power is a big benefit.”

In addition to interconnection issues, many small utilities are concerned with how adding a wind turbine will affect the grid. IREC ran into a few of these problems. “One of our issues was having enough load on the windiest days to make sure you have some place to put the electricity. As it turns out, some of the potentially windiest days happen in the spring when our load is lightest. This can be a real problem if you have to backfeed the power. In our situation, the transmission operator will take it, but when that power gets redistributed we have to pay for it again. So, we’d have to pay for power we generate ourselves, which we don’t want to do.” The coop was able to deal with this problem however, and they did not need to purchase new equipment. “We are using essentially the same equipment for our wind turbine as for any other kind of distributed generation. The intermittent nature of wind power is really somewhat overstated. The newer machines are designed to come up and sync with the grid automatically.”

Financing the project was not as easy. The total cost for the project was $1.878 million, plus an additional $300,000 to upgrade IREC’s distribution system to accommodate the turbine. The coop took the view that the distribution feeder is a general upgrade to the system and they didn’t count the system upgrades into the cost of the wind project. The project received a total of $886,544 from three sources, two of which were grants: $438,544 from USDA Section 9006, $250,000 from the IL Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, $175,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICEF). The ICEF amount was not a grant but actually a purchase of green tags for the first ten years of operation. The project would not have been possible without these financing tools, but now it will be able to pay for itself in about ten years. Obtaining grants, takes time however, and the USDA grant took about 3-4 solid weeks of work during the 6 week submission window. “It seemed like I didn’t do anything else during that time,” says Middleton.

Additional financing for the project was obtained through the USDA’s Rural Utility Service’s (RUS) wind generation loan program, which provided term debt financing at the capital municipal rate. The total amount financed through RUS was $1.3 million, which includes the $300,000 of upgrades to the distribution system. With the financing from the RUS loan, the two grants, and the ICEF green tag sales, the project will generate power at a price just less than their wholesale power contract rate (~6.5 cents), assuming a 30% capacity factor.

Putting together the financing for the project was one of the biggest hurdles Middleton had to overcome. “Getting the grants was an absolute necessity. We wouldn’t have touched this project without getting the first grant (USDA Section 9006), but others were still necessary.” Other obstacles IREC encountered were finding wind and an interconnect point, and dealing with the county ordinances. “Another unanticipated issue was how it is to deal with local governing bodies that don’t have familiarity with wind or expertise in permitting wind turbines. We’re still working with our county. Local zoning boards are new to wind, so there are lots of hoops to jump through as they get educated. I think it would be smoother if rules were designed before projects were designed. But there just wasn’t much expertise on these ordinances in Illinois two years ago when we started this.”

Despite the obstacles, IREC’s turbine is up and running and considered a great success story for rural cooperatives. Giffen sees real progress in Illinois, as well as great untapped potential. “Since renewable resources are generally found in the rural areas served by electric co-ops like ours, we’re naturally interested in those resources, whether they are wind or biomass or methane from animal waste. When you can use those resources economically, we think everybody wins.”

Read more about the turbines on the IREC web site.

Kendall County, IL: Community Wind Project

Small Wind Turbines in Illinois

Kendall County, Illinois

Gary Kizior installed a 10 kW Bergey turbine in December 2002, replacing his old Whisper 3 kW machine. It sits on the same 80-foot tip-up tower that Whisper machine used. This project was half funded by the Illinois Renewable Energy Resources Grant Program and was among the first small turbines in the state to receive a grant through this program.

Turbine
Gary chose a Bergey Excel 10 kW generator with a 23-foot diameter rotor because it had a reputation for quality and being low maintenance. There are no regular lubrications required and he anticipates very low costs for upkeep and repair in the future. The turbine cost approximately $20,000.

Funding

Gary applied to the Illinois Department of Commerce for funding in July of 2002. Two months later he learned that his application had been approved and after submitting some additional paperwork he received his check in a few weeks. Wind turbines from 5 kW to 200 kW currently are eligible for grants for up to 50 percent of the hardware and installation costs through this state program.

Permitting

This project took advantage of the exemption from zoning restrictions for agricultural projects in agriculturally zoned areas of the state of Illinois. This is a low-hassle route for farmers interested in small wind turbines.

Economics

Production
Gary has a wind anemometer mounted 65 feet off the ground on the 80-foot tower. Data collected last year showed the annual average wind speed at this height to be 9.5 miles per hour. However, according to Gary, 2002 was a lower than average wind year, especially during the winter. The Bergey Windpower website has a calculator designed to model cash flow and payback periods for Bergey products. The calculator shows that an average annual wind speed of 9.5 mph will yield a yearly production of 7,923 kilowatt-hours, or an average monthly output of 660 kilowatt-hours. This figure is based on an open site for the turbine free of obstacles to the wind. Gary's site and electrical configuration produces a little bit less than this estimate. He uses a transformer and existing inverter to charge batteries at the same time. These both consume power and reduce the amount he can sell to Commonwealth Edison through the company’s net metering program.

Net metering

Gary reports that he is saving approximately $500-$600 per year in electricity costs. ComEd reduces his monthly bill by the avoided cost rate (approximately $0.02 per kilowatt hour) for the energy that he generates. Then at the end of the year ComEd calculates the total amount of electricity he used and amount of electricity he generated at the summer and winter peak and off peak rates, resulting in ComEd sending a check for the additional amount. In the end, he will average closer to $0.09 per kilowatt-hour for the electricity he offsets by generating his own power. Simple payback on such a system is 15-20 years, after the grant award. This payback is for the turbine only; Gary used an existing tower and electronics and the cost of those is not included in this analysis. Bergey advertises their turbine and inverter as $22,900 and an 80-foot tower that tips up is $8,400. Labor would cost extra if you don’t do all the work yourself.

This project demonstrates one of the best scenarios available for landowners interested in buying a small turbine in Illinois. Gary was able to use both of the state’s strongest incentive programs for small wind turbines: ComEd’s net metering program and the state grant program. Illinois residents outside ComEd’s territory might still be eligible for the state grants if they live in the service territory of another investor owned utility. However, they will not be eligible for net metering and could only expect to receive the avoided cost rate for their excess electricity. Receiving roughly $0.02/kWh rather than closer to $0.09/kWh would significantly lengthen the payback period for the turbine.

Mackinaw City, MI: Community Wind Project

Mackinaw City's Wind Turbines

In 2001, Mackinaw City leased Village-owned land for the construction of two wind turbines by a private developer. Along with generating energy, the turbines are currently used to train new professional wind turbine technicians from Michigan’s Kalamazoo Valley Community College as part of their curriculum.

Read more about this project on the Mackinaw City web site. 

Minwind I & II, Luverne, MN: Community Wind Project

In 2000, a group of farmers in Luverne, Minnesota began to hatch a plan to build farmer-owned wind turbines in Rock County. Their goal was to find an investment that would generate new income for farmers and have economic benefits for the local community. The rapid growth of the wind industry around the country and the great success of wind farming on the nearby Buffalo Ridge made developing wind energy a natural choice. “We wanted a farmer-owned project that would bring economic development, get farmers a return on their investment, and could use local businesses and contractors to do the work,” said Mark Willers, a project leader and farmer from Beaver Creek, Minnesota.

“We are trying to get farmer ownership of wind projects to the forefront and it has been a challenge, but with dedicated people like Mark Willers and Tom Arends we’re making great strides.” –Dave Kolsrud, Corn-er Stone Farmers Cooperative.

 

Read the full in the Fall 2002 Windustry Newsletter.

Minwind III - IX, Luverne, MN: Community Wind Project

The Minwind projects are a series of nine farmer-owned wind projects near the town of Luverne in southwestern Minnesota.  All of the Minwind projects were based around the idea that local ownership is central to maximizing local benefits, and the projects are intended to both generate new income for farmers and benefit the local community’s economy.

The first two projects, Minwind I and II, were completed in the fall of 2002, and each consist of two NEG Micon 950 kW turbines.  These were among the first farmer-owned turbines in the nation. Minwind III through IX came online in 2004, and each of these consists of a single, 1.65 MW NEG Micon turbine.

The Minwind projects grew out of discussions among a group of farmers about various options for developing agriculture-based energy projects. After noticing the similarities between community wind and cooperative ethanol production, the group decided to begin putting the pieces together for a community wind project.

When Minwind I and II were opened to investors, 66 investors from the region eagerly snapped up all the available shares in both companies in only 12 days.  Because of the demand for opportunities to participate in renewable energy projects and the success of the first two projects, planning for the second set began almost immediately following completion of the first.

Minwind’s successful model of community wind development has engaged more and more rural Minnesotans interested in this new investment opportunity. “Our goal was to help as many rural people as we possibly could,” says Minwind Energy CEO, Mark Willers.

The Minwind projects were developed with many objectives in mind, including:
•    Generating renewable energy
•    Creating local employment opportunities
•    Maintaining group ownership
•    Keeping profits local
•    Using proven technology
•    Sustaining stable management
•    Creating long-term marketing
•    Participating in the future

With local individuals at the heart of development, the Minwind projects are maximizing local benefit in many ways: through economic development, returns on investment, and business relationships. While describing local business support, Willers explains that “the [Minwind] group became friends with the Duluth Port Authority because they shipped turbines in through Duluth. This led to a good relationship with [them] and the discussion of future business relationships.”

What did it take to get these turbines spinning? The short answer is: cooperation, persistence, and creative funding.

After the success of Minwind I and II, participants in III-IX were asked to contribute $500 for research and development funds to see if the new projects would work. Investors knew that their deposit would not be returned if the projects did not fly.  This shared commitment carries through into the projects’ governance structure.  All nine Minwind management groups are organized as limited liability companies (LLC), and Minwind projects III through IX are largely based on the same cooperative principles as Minwind I and II:
•    All shareholders must be Minnesota residents, 85% of whom must be from rural communities.
•    Ownership is limited to a maximum of 15% per project for each investor.

These two criteria ensure that both the investment opportunities and the returns remain in local hands. By capping the amount of shares allowable per owner, Minwind is able to open this opportunity to a large number of small investors. “We didn’t do all kinds of work to get a PPA [power purchase agreement] and then have an MBA team come down here and buy the whole thing,” Mark Willers explains. “That’s not what we’re about.”

In addition, projects III-IX included a few new investor conditions to further ensure local control on the wind projects:
•    Each Minwind Company has a completely different group of people.
•    The business structures were carefully designed to ensure that the shares can be transferable among family members.

These new rules go even further to ensuring that the maximum number of rural investors has an opportunity to participate in the projects, and that the charter members will be able to pass shares to their children, and not have to sell them off to outsiders.

Willers emphasizes the importance of carefully considering the business plan for a wind project, saying, “If you are looking at owning some wind turbines, you need to understand where you’re going. Does the revenue come back to one person, a group, a school, a hospital?”

In additional to the contributions from local investors, Minwind III-IX took advantage of renewable energy grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Like all aspects of developing community wind projects, the USDA application process was one that required a lot of time and meticulous attention. “Its good business, but those things take extra time,” said Willers.  “You go over it a third time to make sure that these are the criteria USDA needs so there are no mistakes.” Each project was awarded $178,201 in USDA Farm Bill Section 9006 grant funds for expenses including engineering, transmission, equipment, and construction.  

The financing of the Minwind projects is unique in that the projects are not dependent on the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for financial viability.  The PTC provides a tax credit to wind power producers based on the amount of electricity produced over their first ten years of operation. Minwind investors are individually eligible for the PTC, in an amount proportionate to their investment. It was left to the individual investors whether or not they will participate in the PTC. Willers says that the Board’s decision not to rely on the tax credit for financing brought some additional stability and certainty to the project’s development.

Securing a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which defines the rate paid for the wind energy over a set number of years, is a critical factor in the success of any wind project. For the Minwind projects, negotiating both the PPA and the interconnection agreement (which allows the turbines to hook into the larger electrical grid) required working closely with Xcel Energy, which was a relationship that “needed to be built,” noted Willers. “We need to understand where we’re all going – not just show up one day saying, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to hook up to your transmission line.’” Willers noted that developing a close, working relationship with the utility early in the process was very important to the success of the projects.

One other key to the success of the Minwind projects was that in both phases, they were able to find and purchase turbines with relative ease.  With the recent rapid expansion of the larger wind energy market, many wind turbine manufacturers are sold out two years in advance, which can be challenging for smaller projects to plan around.

In the end, the Minwind projects involved enormous investments of time and energy from project participants, but those involved believe their efforts have been worthwhile.  “We’ve spent an incredible amount of time on this, but we needed to do it for our community and our friends who are farmers,” said Willers.

 

Pipestone-Jasper School District, Pipestone, MN: Community Wind Project

Excerpt from Case Study done by

In Fall 2001, the Pipestone- Jasper School District was awarded one of Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund grants to construct a wind turbine. Jack Keers, a Pipestone County Commissioner, and Dan Juhl, a local wind developer, had urged the Pipestone-Jasper School District to apply for a grant to install a wind turbine at the new school to supply part of the school’s electricity needs. The District was ideally positioned and seemed like a perfect fit for a school wind turbine project. The school would be located on a very windy Buffalo Ridge location, funding for the new school was secure, and construction was significantly under budget. With the Renewable Development Fund grant in place, the District must contribute $150,000 toward turbine construction and Xcel Energy contributes the remaining $850,000.

 

Case Study is available on the CERTS website

http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/files/CS-PipestoneJasper_wind.pdf

Proctor High School, Proctor, MN: Community Wind Project

Proctor High School's 20kW turbine went online in October 2006.

Report is from the Minnesota Power "Power of One" Website:

MP helps Park Rapids High harness wind power

"On Friday, Park Rapids High School students and teachers plan to add a new, renewable energy source to the school’s grid-connected distribution system: a wind generator, thanks to help from Minnesota Power.

Park Rapids High Harness Wind Power Workers contracted by Park Rapids High School prepare to "tip up" the wind tower and turbine on school gorunds.The generator sits atop a 100-foot tower and the Jacobs turbine can produce up to 20 kilowatts. Based on local average wind speeds onsite of about 11 miles per hour, its estimated annual output is 25,700 kilowatt-hours.

“In addition to anticipated energy savings, the project helps teachers incorporate information about renewable energy into their curricula, touching on subjects from physics, engineer­ing and chemistry to biology, ecology and meteorology,” said Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) Specialist Dean Talbott. The project also helps prompt classroom discussion on generation sources – from wind, coal and hydro to natural gas, biofuels and nuclear.

Representing MP at the school’s recent celebration of the wind project tower “tip up” were Customer Service Representative Jolynn Nilson, Customer Information Representative Jeneen Klein and Chris Reed of Reed Energy, a contract firm that works closely with MP on renewable energy projects. Other MP person­nel assisting in the project are Engineer Senior Frank Kornbaum and Regional Account Manager Mary Bindewald.

Wind Turbine MP funded similar projects at Proctor High School, Central High School, and for the Mor­rison County Agricultural Society on county fairgrounds in Little Falls. These Community Wind Power Projects are part of MP’s CIP ini­tiatives, through which the Company seeks to provide limited financial incentives for instal­lations of small-scale wind energy projects and conservation improvement within its service territory.

MP’s primary objectives in funding such proj­ects are to: increase public awareness of the importance of efficient energy use and renewable energy technologies – specifically, wind energy; facilitate, through CIP funding grants, public demonstrations of grid-connected, small-scale wind power technology (40 kilowatts or less); and encourage development of real-life working examples of renewable, wind energy technology that reinforce the principles of math and science and that can be integrated into classroom discussions and other public educational opportunities.
In connection with this solicitation of applications, MP seeks to provide CIP funding of up to $20,000 for a qualified, selected wind energy project. Park Rapids High School teachers and students are also pursuing development of an interac­tive, real-time monitoring system to analyze wind resource data, turbine energy production and more.

Report Uses Cases Studies to Explore Community Wind

Lessons & Concepts for Advancing Community Wind, released by The Minnesota Project, seeks to advance the development of community-based wind projects in the United States by drawing keys to success and policy recommendations from three compelling Midwestern case studies.

Wind energy continues to experience double digit growth rates because of the relatively cheap technology and the widespread availability of wind resources, and numerous studies have now shown that locally-owned wind projects produce disproportionate benefits to the local community and region where they are built. This presents community wind energy development as a stand-out opportunity for communities across America to pursue locally-owned projects that will help meet their electricity needs and contribute to energy independence while also providing tremendous economic benefits. 

Report Contents:

  • Section I: Community Wind Case Studies
    • Winona County, MN
    • City of Willmar, MN
    • Miner County, SD
  • Section II: Keys to Success
    • Visioning & Planning
    • Project Leadership
    • Involving the Community
    • Financing & Pricing
  • Section III: Solutions for Advancing Community Wind
    • Dispersed Generation Studies
    • Siting & Permitting Standardization
    • Establishing or Improving C-BED Legislation
    • Rural Utility Service Loans
    • Investment Tax Credit or Cash Grant
    • Net Metering
    • Advanced Renewable Tariffs
    • Standard Offer Contracts
    • Increasing Renewable Portfolio Standards

Rosebud Sioux Tribe, SD: Community Wind Project

From the US Department of Energy Cast Study on wind development on the Rosebud Reservation:

"Since the late 1990s, the tribe has been actively pursuing wind development on the Rosebud Reservation. In March 2003, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe commissioned a single 750 kW NEGMicon Vestas wind turbine, which has come to be known as the Little Soldier (Akicita Cikala) turbine, in respect to the vision of Alex "Little Soldier" Lunderman and his contribution to this effort. This turbine was the result of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant awarded in late 1999, along with a matching U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Loan. With the assistance of a developer and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (ICOUP), the RST applied for and received a DOE grant to develop a 30 MW wind farm. This resulted in the development of the Owl Feather War Bonnet Wind Farm. After five years, this wind farm's development is almost complete, with the exception of a signed power purchase agreement (PPA) and the resulting interconnection agreement. This signed agreement will enable the completion of the wind farm. The RST shall act as a passive landowner, reaping a percentage of gross receipts based on Grant of Use and Lease Agreement agreed upon by action of the RST Tribal Council and the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

 

2010 Project Update

"The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST) and Citizens Wind will complete the required pre-construction activities necessary to secure funding for the proposed 190 MW North Antelope Highlands wind farm, including identification of power purchasers, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting requirements, transmission and interconnection studies, and subsequent interconnection agreements required to deliver energy to a specific set of potential purchasers. This project will result in delivery of all required environmental and cultural studies, permits and contracts sufficient to secure project financing."

 

Read more about Tribal Energy Programs at the US Dept of Energy

Sacred Heart Monastery, Richardton, ND: Community Wind Project

On June 16, 1997, Sacred Heart Monastery began producing electricity from wind turbines.  They had installed two, used Silver Eagle wind turbines with Micon internal workings. At the time they ventured into this project, just about everyone told them it was a “bad” idea.

This story is chronicalled on the The Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery Website

St. Olaf Wind Turbine Case Study

For decades, Saint Olaf College has been thinking carefully about its energy consumption and impacts on the environment. On the 19th of September 2006, a 1.65 megawatt turbine became a symbol of its commitment to sustainability.

Pete Sandberg, the man who spearheaded the college's effort to erect its own turbine, came to St. Olaf in the 1980s and currently serves as the Assistant Vice President for Facilities. Since he arrived at St. Olaf, Sandberg has been involved in numerous efforts to reduce the college's impact on the environment. As early as the 1980s, St. Olaf considered restoring its land to the condition it was in before European settlement. Long before the current level of concern about climate change, Sandberg and his colleagues realized that sequestering carbon in the soil and vegetation would have been an added benefit of this conservation and restoration initiative.

An Independent Grid

In the 1990s, St. Olaf took proactive steps to upgrade its electrical supply and distribution system. In 1999, the college installed three diesel generators, which can produce up to 4.2 megawatts of electricity. St. Olaf also upgraded its internal electrical distribution system from to a 13.8kV line that loops through campus in an underground tunnel. Thanks to these investments, St. Olaf can provide electricity to almost all of its buildings even in the event of a blackout. The ability to do so allows the college to qualify as an interruptible customer and to take advantage of lower rates from its electric utility, Xcel Energy. As a result, the college saves about $150,000 every year on its electricity costs. In addition to benefiting from lower energy bills, these investments later played a key role in helping St. Olaf optimize the use of its own wind turbine.

The Seed Was Planted

In the early 2000s St. Olaf began to explore a future for wind energy on its campus, and the idea of installing a wind turbine grew out of both conviction and practicality. At the time, the college was in the early stages of planning a new 100,000 square-foot science center that would consume a significant amount of electricity. Despite pursuing LEED certification and maximizing energy efficiency, Sandberg and staff had been left to wonder how they might further reduce the operating cost impact of adding this new building to the campus grid. On-site renewable generation emerged as a potential alternative to buying more electricity from Xcel.

Plans for the wind turbine gained momentum in 2003. That spring, Honor the Earth and the Indigo Girls came to St. Olaf to launch a national tour aiming to raise money and create a groundswell of awareness and support for wind projects on Native American lands. The event also generated interest among students to begin exploring how they might sustainably harness wind energy on their campus. Little did they know, Sandberg was already one step ahead, having passed on to the administration an initial proposal to construct four wind turbines at St. Olaf.

Getting the Money and the Machine

Planning for the wind turbine began in earnest when Sandberg applied to the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund in response to their second request for proposals in 2004. While St. Olaf ultimately received funding, this proved to be a mixed blessing. While the college waited for the Public Utilities Commission to approve their grant contract, the federal government renewed the production tax credit which unleashed a burst of wind energy development activity. As a result of the high demand and tight supply, what Sandberg originally projected to be a $1.9 million project rose to over $2.5 million. Undeterred, St. Olaf gladly accepted the $1.5 million grant and paid upfront for the remaining costs out of their capital operating budget.

The Economic Benefits

St. Olaf worked with Windlogics, a wind resource assessment company, and determined a feasible site less than a quarter of a mile northwest of campus. The proximity made it economically feasible to connect the wind turbine to the campus' internal distribution loop, which paid off in a major way. By interconnecting with the campus grid, St. Olaf is able to consume the wind-generated electricity on-site and therefore reduce their energy imports from Xcel. The school only sells excess wind energy to Xcel at night and during break periods, when campus demand is low.

This arrangement translates into a significant financial advantage. Instead of selling their entire production to Xcel for the standard small wind tariff of 3.3 cents/kWh, St. Olaf reduces its purchases from Xcel which are set at a rate of 6.2 cents/kWh. As a result, the school is able to save about $250,000 per year on electricity bills. Since this dwarfs the $36,000 in operation and maintenance that the school pays in its service contract for the turbine, St. Olaf expects to recuperate its initial capital investment four to five years after the turbine blades began to spin.

Bumps in the Road

The road to acquiring their own turbine has not been without surprises or setbacks. While awaiting a decision from the Renewable Development Fund, not only did the project's capital costs spike, but the company from which St. Olaf originally planned to purchase a turbine, NEG Micon, was acquired by Vestas. Consequently the school had to re-enter negotiations with Vestas and ultimately sign a more expensive service contract. Accepting the grant set limits on St. Olaf in other ways, too. One of the conditions required St. Olaf to pass all environmental attributes of the wind energy, sometimes called green tags or renewable energy credits, to Xcel. Furthermore, St. Olaf was also not eligible for the Minnesota Renewable Energy Production Incentive, which ceased accepting new applicants in 2005. A final surprise came after the turbine went up and production numbers failed to meet the projections. Initial estimates projected 6 million kWh of energy would flow from the turbine each year, but annual figures to date have averaged about 4.5 million kWh-roughly a quarter of the school's yearly electricity consumption. Luckily, though, this underperformance has not significantly impacted the financial viability of the project, which remains on-schedule to pay for itself by 2011.

Overall, Pete Sandberg considers the St. Olaf wind turbine an unequivocal success. It stands tall as a source of pride for the school and a highly visible symbol of the college's commitment to the environment. The wind turbine also offers learning opportunities for professors to incorporate into their courses. Sandberg is regularly called upon to give tours to groups who come to learn about wind energy from greater Northfield and beyond. Indeed, St. Olaf serves as a model for many other campuses around the country that contact Sandberg to learn how they might replicate his success. Although St. Olaf currently has no plans to add another turbine, the one they already have is not likely to fade into oblivion. The campus plans to transform the site of the turbine into a living model of sustainability. Student groups will practice organic agriculture on some of the surrounding farmland, and nearby a new building covered in solar panels will house art studios and produce enough electricity to meet on-site needs and feed excess into the St. Olaf grid.

The Kas Brothers, Woodstock, MN: Community Wind Project

Kas Brothers Plant 25-Year Cash Crop This Season: Wind Power

From one perspective, Richard and Roger Kas of Woodstock, Minnesota are typical Midwestern farmers who have grown up farming the family land with their father, William Kas. But this family has something unmistakably unique taking place on their farm. They have seventeen modern wind turbines on their land, generating enough electricity to power 4300 households, and they’re about to put up two more. What is even more unique is that the Kas brothers will own these two new commercial-scale wind turbines. This is the first project of its kind in Minnesota, and possibly in the whole Midwest. Kas Brothers Wind Farm

The wind development came about pretty quick in Southwest Minnesota when the legislature mandated that Northern States Power, now called Xcel Energy, contract 425 MW of wind generated electricity by 2002 in exchange for allowing nuclear waste to be stored outside the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant. Landowners signed leases giving the utility and wind development companies rights to put wind turbines on a portion of their land. The Kas family was part of this group of landowners. But they chose their developer carefully.

Read this article in the Spring 2001 Windustry News.

Trimont Area Windfarm LLC, Trimont, MN: Community Wind Project

From the Great River Energy Press Release

Trimont Area Wind Farm celebrates dedicationNation’s largest landowner-developed wind farm generates enough electricity to serve the annual energy needs of about 29,000 homes

Trimont, Minn. - The Trimont Area Wind Farm, the nation’s largest landowner-developed wind farm, was officially dedicated on Saturday, July 8 at the Trimont Chocolate Festival. Generating enough electricity to serve the annual energy needs of nearly 29,000 Minnestoa homes, the wind farm consists of 67 wind turbines, each nearly as tall as a 30-story building.

The project, developed and operated by Portland-based PPM Energy, provides power to Great River Energy, which distributes the renewable energy to member electric cooperatives throughout Minnesota.

“This project is a significant step that will help spur the creation of homegrown, renewable energy in our state and in our region,” said Jon Brekke, vice-president, member services, Great River Energy. “The land continues to be owned and farmed by local landowners, and energy customers throughout the state will benefit from the wind energy produced at the Trimont Area Wind Farm.”

Tim Seck, business developer, PPM Energy, adds: “The Trimont Area Wind Farm has become a model for community wind across the country, and we hope to replicate the success elsewhere as well as expand Trimont.”

The wind farm generates up to 100 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy. Forty-three landowners in the area partnered with PPM Energy and Great River Energy to develop the project, which will help Great River Energy meet the Minnesota Renewable Energy Objective, calling on electric utilities to produce 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015.

The project will generate more than $1 million in local economic impact to the Trimont area in the form of taxes, easement payments, landowner revenue participation payments and jobs.

Neal VonOhlen, chief manager of the Trimont Area Wind Farm and a local farmer, notes his satisfaction with the project saying, “As a Minnesota farmer, I understand the value of wind energy to my farm, my community and the importance of it to our partners in the project. We’re incredibly excited to dedicate the wind farm, and look forward to producing energy for many years to come.”

Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source, with an annual average growth rate of more than 35 percent since 2001.

Waverly, IA: Waverly Light and Power Community Wind Project

Midwest Municipal Utility is a Wind Power Pioneer

Waverly Light & Power (WLP) was the first utility in the Midwest to invest in wind energy with an 80 kW turbine in 1993. The municipal utility in northeast Iowa began to explore wind power as a way to diversify its energy resources, test more environmentally-friendly ways to generate electricity, and respond to the community’s interest in wind. The success of the first turbine prompted WLP to invest in two more turbines, 750 kW Zonds. This time the turbines were installed near Storm Lake in northwest Iowa to take advantage of a better wind resource and the economies of scale of that came with being part of a 259-turbine project.  

With advances in technology and costs for wind energy dropping, in 2002 WLP determined that installing a large turbine in the local area made economic sense. The 900 kW NEG Micon turbine cost $1.1 million and now provides enough annual energy for 261 homes (about 2.2 million kWh). Residents and businesses in Waverly now get about five percent of their energy from wind power. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources wrote a case study that describes the operation and economics of this turbine in detail.

WLP launched the Iowa Energy Tags program in 2001 to allow citizens from Iowa and around the country to support its wind energy initiatives. For $50, any consumer or company in Iowa or around the country can buy the equivalent of 2,500 kWh of wind-generated electricity. The cost of WLP’s wind turbine investments has been integrated into the rates of all Waverly customers, but this program allows people to contribute extra toward more wind development.

WLP General Manager Glenn Cannon has been the guiding force behind the utility’s pioneering efforts in renewable energy. In a 2002 interview with Wind Powering America, Cannon outlined his vision for doubling WLPs use of wind power and ways to help other municipal utilities follow in Waverly’s footsteps. Click here to read the full interview.

Another Waverly wind power champion is honored in the names of WLPs four turbines. They are called Skeets 1, 2, 3, and 4 as a tribute the late Russell “Skeets” Walther, a Waverly farmer who volunteered his land for the first WLP turbine. The 231-foot tall Skeets 4 now stands in same spot as the original Skeets 1 as memorial to his great commitment to wind power.

Sources: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wind Powering America, and Waverly Light & Power

 

Worthington, MN: Community Wind Project

The following is an excerpt from a case study on RiverWinds project in Worthington,  MN, compiled byClean Energy Resource Teams

"In September 2000, the Worthington Public Utilities assembled a task force of citizens to investigate the merit of wind power in Worthington. Windustry, a project affiliated with the non-profit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, funded the feasibility study through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Investigation results were very positive, so Worthington Public Utilities entered into a three-way partnership with Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), a joint action power agency based in Sioux Falls, and Wisconsin Public Power Inc (another power agency), to install four new 900 kW wind turbines. Worthington Public Utilities owns the distribution, while the two partners each owned two of the turbines, allowing both to qualify for the Minnesota Renewable Energy Production Incentives for projects less than 2 MW."

Fiind the repost on the CERTS website

cleanenergyresourceteams.org/files/CS_CWind_Worthington.pdf