Officials in Tower received a reality check on Monday that is likely to forestall any wind power development in the city for the foreseeable future, but could prompt the city to join forces with Mt. Iron on a joint project somewhere on the Iron Range.
The change in direction came during a nearly two-hour meeting with consultant Gary Cerkvenik, who has been working on wind power development with the Mt. Iron Economic Development Authority for nearly three years. Cerkvenik said Mt. Iron’s EDA has made considerable progress on its own wind power project, and would likely be interested in adding partners to the project in the near future.
The Mt. Iron EDA, with funding from the IRR and Minnesota Power, have completed a detailed study of wind potential in northeastern Minnesota and has found about five locations that have sufficient potential. Most of those sites were rejected for a number of reasons, but Cerkvenik said the EDA is giving serious consideration to one particular site, although he declined to specify the location publicly.
City officials in Tower held a meeting last month to discuss the possibility of installing one or two wind generators on hills just south of town. Cerkvenik had wind data which suggested those sites would likely be disappointing. The same data showed the immediate shore of Lake Vermilion has significant wind potential, but Cerkvenik said public opposition would likely prove a major hurdle to a wind project there.
Cerkvenik also discouraged consideration of installing just one or two turbines. He said ten megawatts is usually considered the minimum for a project to be economical. “You have to remember that many of the initial costs are the same for one turbine as for 50,” he said.
Cerkvenik said development of a wind farm is a significant undertaking, but he said Mt. Iron is already well down that road. “We’re fairly confident we’re going to have a project,” he said.
If so, he said the project has the potential to provide a long-term source of revenue for the project partners. He said the Mt. Iron EDA is looking for other public entities as potential partners in their project. “I think we’d be open to having Tower involved in it,” he said.
Tower City Clerk-Treasurer Tim Kotzian said the project could be a good fit for the Tower Economic Development Authority. Cerkvenik said he’d bring the idea back to the Mt. Iron EDA to see if further discussions might be warranted.
By Marshall Helmberger
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