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Preliminary work continues on proposed wind energy project  

Preliminary work is continuing on the Willmar Municipal Utilities’ proposed wind energy project.

“We’re still moving forward with the project,’’ said Bruce Gomm, utilities general manager, in a report Monday to the Municipal Utilities Commission.

A study by Jon Folkedahl of Folkedahl Consulting of Willmar has recommended Ridgewater College and Willmar Senior High School as sites for the turbines, and Folkedahl has recommended two turbines be constructed at each site.

The turbines would generate less than 5 percent of Willmar’s total energy needs, but any energy that the utility can generate is beneficial, according to Gomm.

“This generation is a little bit more expensive than conventional generation since it’s renewable,’’ he said. “But it will help offset our purchase power costs.’’

Some steps must take place first before the turbines are constructed, such as negotiating a lease for a site.

Gomm said the utilities has since last November been negotiating a 57-page lease for the Ridgewater site with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which administers and funds Ridgewater College. Gomm said few lease issues remain to be negotiated.

The lease would cost $2,500 for each turbine, for a combined cost of $5,000 per year, plus an inflation factor, according to Gomm and Wes Hompe, staff electrical engineer. No lease negotiations have been held with the Willmar School District, they said.

Another step is securing the financing. Willmar had applied for $5.6 million in interest-free financing with Clean Renewable Energy Bonds offered through the Internal Revenue Service.

The commission learned in December that Willmar’s application was not approved, however.

Willmar has reapplied in the second round of financing, and may learn the results in October, but the IRS has not provided a specific date, according to Hompe.

If permits are approved for the project, proposals would be sought from turbine manufacturers in late 2007 or early 2008. Delivery from manufacturers takes 18 months or more from the date of the order.

In an interview, Gomm said the commission will decide whether or not the project goes forward for sure.

“What we will have to do is have everything in place, and once we have final numbers and we actually get proposals from different entities, then we can look at the financials,’’ he said.

“We should have a better idea if we’re going to receive any of the (Clean Renewable Energy Bonds) financing or not, and then it will be up to the commission to decide if we’re going to proceed (with or without that financing),’’ he said.

By David Little

West Central Tribune

24 July 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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