The New Ulm Public Utilities Commission Tuesday gave the utility’s staff the green light to begin negotiating with area farmers for a site for its wind energy generation farm.
“We’ve been talking with two different landowners, and we could be talking about taking up to a section of land for the wind turbines,” New Ulm Public Utilities Director Gary Gleisner told commissioners.
“We’re estimating we may be paying $4,500 to $6,000 per turbine per site so [it would cost] about $18,000 for three turbines,” Gleisner said, responding to a commissioner’s question.
However, different sites may require a different configuration because the utility would not only be leasing a site but also buying wind rights, Gleisner said.
“While the turbine’s actual footprint is about 50 feet by 50 feet, we may have to lease a much larger area [for the turbine] in order to have wind rights,” Gleisner said.
“There is some give and take,” said City Manager Brian Gramentz.
“For example, we may be paying $1,200 per anemometer [wind-measuring] site while paying a lot more to get enough wind rights. Also, we could buy the land the turbine is on and lease the [larger] wind rights. That could be a savings.”
However, as the utility’s planning and development engineer, Pat Wrase, noted in a status report on long term electric power projects, including the wind farm, only three turbine manufacturers are willing to talk about a three-turbine order.
At least one indicated that it “should be” able to meet the utility’s delivery date of 2008-2009, Wrase said.
So, the staff wanted to get on with the process of obtaining the needed easements – which the commission agreed was the right course.
The commission also approved the utility staff’s request to raise its reconnection fees.
The fee for a regular business hours reconnection goes up from $35 to $50. A reconnection outside of regular business hours would increase from $150 to $185, effective Sept. 1.
Gleisner reported “47 percent of the disconnects during the past two months are repeats. We want to increase [the fees] to encourage customers to not repeat,” he said.
During 2007, the utility has been averaging about 35 disconnects per billing cycle.
Because there are three billing cycles per month, that means the utility is averaging about 105 disconnects per month.
“A lot of them only owe about $30 or $40, but they’ll wait until after regular business hours to get reconnected so they pay over three times what their bill was to get reconnected,” Gleisner said.
The commission accepted Gleisner’s monthly report with little comment even though the financial report for the year’s first seven months shows the utility’s net margin sliding close to the break-even point.
After payments in lieu of taxes are subtracted, the utility only has a net margin of $136,117, which is only a little over 10 percent of the annual budgeted net margin of $1,170,265.
By Ron Larsen
29 August 2007
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