While the Buffalo Ridge has served as a shining example of the potential for wind energy, the state of Minnesota wants to see more expansion throughout the state.
Mike Bull, deputy director for the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, said Friday that expansion of community wind projects is essential to the process.
“This topic is critical,” Bull said. “Your area is near ground zero for community wind energy.”
In an effort to explore opportunities for wind energy throughout the state, Bull said the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator and public utilities are working together on a study of generation potential throughout the state.
The meeting Friday in Marshall was the second of a series of meetings discussing the study, along with introducing a new program giving some community wind projects a leg up.
Bull said the study, that will explore the potential transmission impacts of 1,200 megawatts of new dispersed generation throughout the state, will be split into two phases.
Bull said the report on the first 600-megawatt phase is scheduled to be released in mid-June.
The second 600-megawatt report is scheduled for a September 2009 release, he said.
During a meeting in Marshall on Friday, Bull was joined by representatives from the Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation.
Cheryl Glaeser, program specialist for the SWIF, said the foundation recently received a grant to help develop community wind projects.
“In the 2007 legislation, the Center for Rural Policy and Development was give the appropriation of $1 million to give to a non-profit to design and implement a program for rural wind energy assistance,” said Glaeser. “The Southwest Initiative Foundation was chosen as the recipient of that grant.”
Glaeser said the foundation is working on the development of a program to help out those community wind projects.
“We have been in the process of developing a program for that,” said Glaeser. “We’re rolling it out now during these meetings across the state.”
That program, the Rural Energy Development Initiative, has already seen the ball start rolling.
Glaeser said a group at an Owatonna meeting used to help introduce the program in late March expressed interest in the program.
“We’re rolling out the program in conjunction with the Department of Commerce meetings that have to take place for this first generation study across the state,” said Glaeser.
The REDI program is expected to help about 12 community wind projects in the state, Glaeser said.
“We’ll be able to provide organizing and technical assistance for up to or at least 12 projects across the state of Minnesota,” said Glaeser. “There will be a selection criteria for grabbing those 12 projects, including items such as site selection, community interest, good wind resource, land rights available, and looking at those factors and picking the best sites for successful projects.”
By Robert Wolfington III
5 April 2008
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