Whether you’re interested in reducing our dependency on foreign oil, saving the planet, or making a buck, sustainable energy is a hot topic on an increasingly hotter planet.
This past Thursday members of Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) collaborated with the West Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (WCRSDP) and the Western Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTS). Together the groups sponsored a bus tour meant to bring together representatives from a number of avenues of society with the intention of edifying them in Community Based Renewable Energy Development.
In all, over 30 individuals representing local government, members of academia, private investors and landowners, public utilities, non-profit organizations went along for the ride.
Specifically from Granite Falls Senator Gary Kubly, City Manager Bill Lavin, Chairman of the Utility Commission Keith Koerlin, City Electrical Superintendent Don Reznechek, Economic Develop-ment Agency Director, Dennis VanHoof, and Utility Commissioners Mike Smith and Tom Cherveny, were all on the tour.
Apart from Granite, the bus made stops in Appleton, Benson, Milan, and Montevideo picking up community members and allowing for discussion before arriving together at the University of Minnesota in Morris. During this time individuals such as Andrew Falk, of Benson, were given the opportunity to share their experience with alternative energies. In the case of Falk, he discussed the finance and procedures for his planned construction of an 18.9-megawatt wind farm.
Falk discussed a multitude of issues regarding project funding, materials, and regulations. For instance, in just acquiring a turbine, waiting lists now fall somewhere in the vicinity of a year-and-a-half to two years. The construction of the turbine itself is then hindered by the necessity of one of only six cranes in the country that are capable of hoisting the turbine’s pieces into place.
Falk also addressed one of the biggest obstacles for wind energy in Minnesota. The issue, is that most of the state’s wind resources are located away from electrical hubs of metropolitan areas and there are a lack of transmission lines facilitating the transfer. Thus, wind power is most viable in western regions (especially southwest) of Minnesota, but just as traffic is limited by the number of lanes on a highway, energy maybe inhibited by the number of transmission lines. Because of the increasingly limited transmission capacities The Federal Energy Regulation Commission has, as of 1996, approved the first ever Midwest Independent System Operator (ISO) whose job it is to “direct traffic” on wholesale bulk electric power lines. The Midwest ISO web site claims that utilities with over 100,000 miles of transmission lines covering 1.1 million square miles from Manitoba, Canada, to Kentucky are committed to participating with the entity.
Falk explained that those interested in connecting to the transmission grid have to first wait in a substantial line, on a first come first serve basis. Falk will compete with entities such as Big Stone II for access to the line that is limited in capacity. Falk stated that necessary MISO studies may cost as much as $50,000 and do not guarantee space on the line.
Arriving at the University the buses’ occupants first visited the University’s own $2,000,000 230′ 1.65MW Vesta Wind Turbine that produces 5.6 million kilowatt hours of power each year (or more than half of the University’s annual electricity requirement) before receiving lectures from multiple University professors.
Lectures covered wind as well as other alternative energy sources such as bio-mass conversions. Bio mass and fuels are plentiful in rural Minnesota where organic materials such as corn stock, switch grass, and even manure have energy potential.
In the long-run, such entities as the U.S. Department of Energy expect hydrogen to be the fuel of the future. Wind power is expected to be the dominant way to provide the clean energy necessary to facilitate hydrogen production.
green in Granite
Granite Falls is currently in the early stages of pursuing its own community owned wind turbine. City Manager, Bill Lavin claims that the turbine could join the hydro electric plant in creating sustainable community based power that would help address escalating energy prices as well as help the city meet state energy mandates.
The city has already had a project proposal completed by Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc.
The proposal states that, Granite Falls has a moderate wind resource to be developed for electricity. The proposed wind turbine could generate 4,730,400 to 44,914,300 kWh or electricity per year. This production would save from 6.4 to 7.2 million dollars over over the next 30 years.
Lavin said that the city will likely a pursue a feasibility study on wind generation performed by an engineer that will consider design and construction of the project. Decisions on this possibility will likely take place at upcoming council meetings.
By Scott Tedrick Staff writer
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