USA - $200,000 grant adds power to wind turbine push

Two-megawatt turbine to be completed by June 2007

Winona County’s proposed wind power project got a boost Tuesday with the announcement of a $200,000 state grant to help pay for a $3 million turbine. “It’s wonderful news,” said Anne Morse, the county’s recycling coordinator and one of the lead turbine project members. “The most exciting thing is that we’ve done all the right things.” Mike Bull, Minnesota’s assistant commerce commissioner, announced the grant — one of two awarded this year for community-owned wind projects — Tuesday night at a Winona State University energy summit. “Winona County has demonstrated all the critical elements we looked for,” Bull said. The two-megawatt turbine must be completed by June 2007 to meet grant requirements. The county’s Economic Development Authority has signed rental options on two pieces of land in Mount Vernon Township but hasn’t revealed their locations. The 300-foot-high turbine would require less than an acre of land, plus an access road.

Township residents supported the project unanimously during a straw vote last month. Jeff Cook-Coyle, the project’s technical consultant, said a new wind study at the proposed sites showed the turbine will operate at 15 percent more than originally expected, and its output will be well above industry standards. County officials and wind consultants project the turbine will pay for itself in 10 to 12 years and will generate a 10 percent return on investment over 20 years, the average lifetime of a turbine. At peak power, the proposed turbine would generate enough electricity to power about 600 homes. The electricity would be fed into the power grid and sold to Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electric utility and the only one purchasing wind power. Last summer, the Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended that the state’s Public Utilities. Commission require Xcel to add 2,800 megawatts of wind power by 2020. EDA members have said a successful project would serve as a model for private investors and future community-owned turbines.

The county is conducting a study of the effect a turbine would have on bird migration patterns; it’s expected to conclude Nov. 8. Preliminary studies have shown the proposed sites are poor habitats, and will cause little harm to birds, Morse said. The EDA has recruited several financial partners for the project, including Winona State and Saint Mary’s universities. Neither university has announced how much it will contribute. The county board has yet to approve the project, but has thus far supported it unanimously.
Online Editorial, www.windfair.net
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
USA, wind energy, wind turbine, wind farm, renewable energy, wind power, rotorblade, offshore onshore

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