MARSHALL – Expect to see more wind turbines on the horizon in Lincoln and Lyon counties in the coming years. Two proposed wind farms are in the initial stages of the Public Utilities Commission’s permitting process that would generate a combined 400 megawatts of power and cover a footprint of more than 60,000 acres.
Geronimo Energy and EDF Renewable Energy (formerly enXco) are the companies behind the proposed wind projects.
Geronimo’s Blazing Star Wind Farm will cover 30,000 acres in northwest Lincoln County, including sections of Hansonville, Hendricks, Marble, Shakotan and Royal townships according to its project description filed with the PUC.
EDF’s Red Pine Wind Project will cover approximately 35,000 acres but will be sited in Lincoln and Lyon Counties somewhere between Marshall and Ivanhoe.
The Red Pine Wind Project does not give specific citing locations in its PUC project description.
The Marshall Independent received written answers to submitted questions from Geronimo Energy but was unable to receive comments from EDF before deadline.
Geronimo Energy’s Marketing and Communications Manager Lindsay Smith estimates the Blazing Star Wind Project will “utilize between 57 and 117 turbines ranging from 1.7 to 3.5 MW in size,” depending on its final selection of generators.
Along with dozens of turbines, both projects will also consist of a power collection system, a network of access roads, permanent meteorological towers, substations, interconnection facilities and operations and maintenance facilities.
Smith said Geronimo Energy began conversations with land owners and other local stakeholders in June of last year and that the project is still in the development stage. Landowners have been very supportive, Smith said, and that Geronimo is working on the lease signing process to enable the next steps of the project. The company expects that the 30,000 acres needed for the project will involve 150-200 landowner parties.
Minnesota is among the top 10 states in the nation in both installed wind capacity and net electricity generation from wind, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Wind energy supplied the state with roughly 16 percent of the energy it generated in 2014, making it one of the best places in the nation to build a wind farm.
The completion of the CapX2020 transmission line through the region has also become a major factor in the decision to build renewable energy projects here. The 250-mile transmission line from Brookings County to Hampton was energized in March of last year.
“Limited transmission capacity hindered any potential project in the past,” Smith said. “When plans for the regional CapX2020 Brookings County-Hampton 345 kV Transmission Line became a reality, so did the concept of the Blazing Star Wind Farm in Lincoln County.”
Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard has been another incentive for companies looking to build new wind projects in the region, allowing companies to take advantage of an increased demand for renewable energy. The standard is one of the nation’s strongest and requires utilities to provide 25 percent of their total electrical generation from renewable sources by 2025. Additionally, the state’s largest utility, Xcel, is required to derive 30 percent of its sales from renewables by 2020.
Renewable energy companies are not the only entities that will benefit from the new projects – tax revenue, landowner payments and local spending associated with the project will have a big impact on the surrounding communities.
“The project will bring many economic benefits to the community, including tax revenue, landowner payments and increased local spending in the local communities during construction,” Smith said. “Additionally, Geronimo will utilize local businesses for various development and construction activities when possible.”
Smith said the company estimates a local economic impact of $1 million during the development period, between $300-$360 million during construction and a $52 million boost to the local economy during the project’s 20-year operational plan.
Smith added that along with the required PUC public hearings, Geronimo plans to host “meetings with landowners and the community throughout the development process to keep them informed on how the project is progressing and what to expect during construction.”
“We will also be appearing before the local counties and townships to discuss how we plan to protect and restore local roads. There will be many opportunities for local input into the project,” Smith said. “As landowner advocates, Geronimo prides itself on retaining open communication with our landowners, and as such, we will be hosting landowner meetings throughout the development process.”
Geronimo expects construction to begin sometime in 2018 on its Blazing Star Wind Farm. EDF Energy did not have an expected construction start date in its PUC filing.
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