USA - Turbine group to tap into private sector

Revised funding plan to include private investors

Proponents of Winona County’s 2-megawatt wind turbine project have a revised funding plan that will include private investors after struggling in recent months to raise public money. The county’s Economic Development Authority received a $200,000 state grant last November and had hoped to finance the entire project with community dollars but wasn’t able to muster much public support. The EDA can fund up to 50 percent of the estimated $3 million-plus project with private dollars and retain the state development grant.

Private investors would likely help accelerate the project and add to its profitability while allowing the county and other groups to continue with plans to use the turbine for education. Winona State University, Saint Mary’s University, Winona Area Public Schools and others have signed on as educational partners.
If the project is backed by private dollars, it will be eligible for federal tax credits, which pay 1.9 cents per kilowatt hour and are set to expire at the end of 2007. Private investment may also help ease concerns of some county board members, who will need to ultimately approve the project. “If we put this thing up and it don’t turn, someone’s going to be in some hot water,” said Commissioner Duane Bell during the county board’s meeting Tuesday. “I don’t want to see county funds go into this.”

The development authority is also in the final stages of negotiating an agreement with Xcel Energy to sell electricity generated by the turbine. Xcel has offered 4.15 cents per kilowatt hour, an increase from the typical 3.5-cent rate. Grover said she’s pleased with the offer, which likely came because of Xcel’s approaching deadline to add 2,800 megawatts of renewable energy to its grid by 2020. The state mandate is part of a compromise for allowing the company to store spent nuclear casks at its Prairie Island reactor. The EDA may not have to worry about turbine availability, a concern as demand for large turbines has exploded in recent years, fueled by rising energy costs and federal production credits. Some manufacturers, including General Electric, have announced their supply is backordered for two years, and most orders are going to multi-turbine wind projects.
Online editorial www.windfair.net
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
wind energy, wind power, renewable energy, wind farm, wind turbine, rotorblade, offshore, onshore

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