Business Models

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.

Production Tax Credit (PTC)

Provides the owner of a qualifying facility with an annual tax credit based on the amount of electricity that is generated. By focusing on the energy produced instead of capital invested, this type of tax incentive encourages projects that perform adequately. In 2007, the rate for the PTC is 1.9¢/kWh. The PTC increases from year to year based on the consumer price index.

Pass-Through Entity

A business structure that allows tax credits and operating gains and losses to be allocated to the owners of the business rather than the business itself, which prevents the income of the business from being taxed twice. Some examples of pass-through entities that would qualify for the federal production tax credit include: limited liability companies, partnerships, sub-chapter “S” Corporations, and limited liability partnerships.

Minnesota Flip

The Minnesota Flip is a business model designed to help local wind project owners with minimal tax appetite pair up with a larger entity that has a more substantial tax burden. Because the tax credits available to project owners are proportional to their level of ownership in the project, the tax motivated entity is the majority owner in the first ten years of production and pays a “management fee” to the local owner in lieu of production payments. Once the tax incentive period ends after year 10, the majority ownership of the project “flips” to the local owner, and the tax-motivated investor takes a minority share in the project. For more information, see “The Minnesota Flip” section of the Toolbox.

Business Metrics

A system of parameters or other quantitative assessments of a business that can be measured periodically and systematically. Business metrics are often used to keep track of how well a business is meeting its objectives.


Bundling several wind energy projects together so that they are treated as one larger project (when purchasing turbines, interconnecting, or maintaining a project, for example,) in order to spread out costs over more turbines or projects. This can have the effect of improving project economics.

Business Structures

Let's assume you have established that you have a good wind resource on your property, and you decide to undertake a wind energy project. How will you do it? As with any business venture, there is more than one way to structure your involvement. Do you want to own a wind turbine by yourself, or join forces with a partner? Or do you want to sell or lease your land to someone else? The structure you choose for your wind energy business will depend on three main factors:

A Comparative Analysis of Community Wind Power Development Options in Oregon

A Comparative Analysis of Business Structures Suitable for Farmer-Owned Wind Power Projects in the United States (November 2004) was prepared for the Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program, U.S. Department of Energy, by Mark Bolinger and Ryan Wise.

For years, farmers in the United States have looked with envy on their European counterparts' ability to profitably farm the wind through ownership of distributed, utility-scale wind projects. Only within the past few years, however, has farmer- or community-owned wind power development become a reality in the United States. The primary hurdle to this type of development in the United States has been devising and implementing suitable business and legal structures that enable such projects to take advantage of tax-based federal incentives for wind power. This article discusses the limitations of such incentives in supporting farmer- or community-owned wind projects, describes four ownership structures that potentially overcome such limitations, and finally conducts comparative financial analysis on those four structures, using as an example a hypothetical 1.5 MW farmer-owned project located in the state of Oregon.

Read the Report

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