The future site of an electricity substation on Rochester’s far west fringe likely will become more than a junction for transmission lines.
It’s windy enough for a pair of power-generating turbines. A fuel cell research project now under way with the University of Minnesota could expand there. An environmental education center heated and cooled by solar power also could be constructed there, a planning team from Rochester Public Utilities envisions. Prairie restoration could beautify the land.
RPU also could place as many as four natural gas turbines on the 50-acre site to generate power for sale to other utilities, RPU’s director of power resources said.
Wally Schlink showed some possibilities to RPU’s policymaking board Tuesday afternoon. Sparking the discussion was the potential for wind power.
Like other Minnesota electric companies, RPU is brainstorming ways to meet new renewable energy mandates being written into state law, such as Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s “25 by ’25” project. It requires a gradual increase from 7 percent renewable energy in 2012 to 25 percent in 2025.
A couple of wind-generating towers likely would generate about the amount of power produced by RPU’s hydroelectric station at Lake Zumbro. They also could generate some dollars for RPU.
“We see these as revenue producers and as a way to get into that whole green (energy) market,” Schlink said.
But two wind-driven generators clearly won’t be enough for future green power needs, he said.
Board chairman Dick Landwehr and member Mark Utz suggested RPU might get more bang for its wind buck by joining an existing wind farm, such as the McNeilus development at Dodge Center, or by teaming up with other utilities to build one. The board advised the renewable energy team to investigate those long-term options.
Local high schools interested in renewable energy projects have contacted RPU about placing turbines on their grounds, leading to the idea of a solar-powered education center, Schlink said. The fuel cell project currently is under way at Quarry Hill Nature Center.
The site is located at 19th Street and 60th Avenue Northwest, west of city limits.
By Bob Freund
25 April 2007
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