Minnesota legislation is calling for additional renewable energy mandates; advocates provide a laundry list of the benefits of wind power, ranging from reduced water usage to the creation of good jobs, to more efficient use of our energy dollars.
Much of what they say is true. Wind is a good choice for utilities when they are looking at building new generation or replacing obsolete plants. Right now, wind combined with natural gas is typically the low-cost choice for new generation. Because of that, the windiest areas of the state – including the southwest corner of the state and the I-90 corridor – will continue to see their wind resources tapped by electric producers.
However, we don’t need a mandate for the wind industry to thrive in Minnesota. Just look at the wind development in Iowa, which ranks second in the nation in wind energy production, but has a Renewable Energy Standard far lower than Minnesota. It has also done it without significantly impacting electric rates by allowing utilities to decide when it’s time to invest in new resources.
The biggest cost-driver for electric rates is building new generation. Right now, most of the electric utilities serving Minnesota have more generation than they need. Adding mandated wind to an already saturated market will put upward pressure on rates and add unnecessary costs to energy-intensive industries such as manufacturing, food processing and biofuels production. In the end, it will make Minnesota’s economy less competitive.
general manager, Federated Rural Electric
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding