WILLMAR – A local wind energy project is stepping up to the next level – moving from ideas and concepts into investment and financial risk.
The project stems from the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission agribusiness and renewable energy committee.
The so-called “wind group” is moving ahead to capitalize its project, according to Bob Meyerson, committee member from Atwater. Last fall, the group set a goal of building at least one 20-megawatt wind energy project in the county within three years. At this point, the group is being spun off into its own organization.
The group is seeking investors and discussing a suitable name for itself, he said. Meyerson expects the process to move slowly, as the investment for wind turbines is significant. Because of the high demand, the wait for the equipment is long – up to two years.
“The hurdles are immense,” he told the committee.
The committee was informed by the EDC’s economic development director Steve Renquist that he will meet next week with Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, and Sen. Joe Gisme, R-Willmar, about their sponsorship of legislation to establish a renewable energy corridor. The number and makeup of the counties in the corridor is yet to be determined, he said.
The bill will be drafted to be similar to the Job Opportunity Building Zones program, with a number of tax breaks, job growth and business incentives.
The committee has been pushing for a corridor authorization since last summer. The corridor would be similar to the bioscience corridor authorized between Rochester and the Twin Cities.
The committee also reviewed the schedule for the sixth annual strategic animal ag conference, which will be Feb. 23 at the Willmar Conference Center. The committee is a co-sponsor of the event.
The event will focus on renewable fuels and livestock, and their co-existence. Speakers on the topic include ethanol plant managers Erik Osmon of Bushmills Ethanol and Bill Lee of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company; Iowa State professor Dr. Dermot Hayes and University of Minnesota professor Brian Buhr. The afternoon session includes the topics of livestock siting, order modeling and agriculture and urban development.
By Gretchen Schlosser West Central Tribune
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