The city of Audubon stands to make some risk-free money off a wind turbine-solar energy project that will be built on city land in June.
The city will earn $18,000 a year by leasing the land on which the project will be located.
It may earn more by contracting for routine maintenance work at the project site.
And the city’s economic development authority will earn a flat $50,000 for sponsoring the $10 million project, which will be paid for by investors motivated by federal energy tax credits.
“We’re looking forward to getting it done,” said Audubon Mayor Brad Grant. “It doesn’t appear to be any risk to the city, and it will provide revenue to the city which is really needed.”
In eight years, when the federal tax credits expire, the city will have the option to buy the wind turbines and solar array, if it chooses to do so. That could generate considerably more money for the community.
Whether the city exercises its option to buy or not, at least it will have eight years of solid data to base its decision on, said Becker County Economic Development Director Guy Fischer.
At this point, “there’s no risk to the community,” he added.
“The City EDA is the sponsor, but does not own it, so there is no cost to us for building it,” said Jessica Wiedenmeyer, Audubon clerk-treasurer. The project will be built on six acres of city-owned land north of town near the wastewater pond, she said.
The project was approved by the Audubon City Council Oct. 17. It will consist of two General Electric 2.3 megawatt wind turbines with 116-meter (about 380-foot) rotors.
Together, the turbines will be able to produce 4.6 megawatts of electricity.
Add another 1 megawatt produced by the solar panels, and the total system will be able to produce up to 5 megawatts of power.
The city of Frazee, which was also offered the chance to participate in a similar wind turbine-solar energy project, “has not yet made a commitment to the program,” said Frazee City Administrator Denise Anderson.
The project as originally proposed carried more risk, and potentially greater rewards, and proved controversial in Frazee.
The city does not have as much available land as Lake Park, and would only be able to sponsor one wind turbine and solar panels at its proposed site, she said.
The Frazee City Council is still considering the idea, but has taken no action at this point, she said.
The projects are designed to be economic development initiatives in smaller cities, Fischer said.
“They (city leaders) have a vision for their communities,” Fischer said. “That’s just great. Audubon has done very well by this, and other communities could tap into this as well.”
A local manufacturer may get involved in manufacturing some of the turbine parts, and that could start a virtuous cycle, he said.
“There’s a potential there down the road for other technology, such as storage technology,” he said.
Juhl Energy of Woodstock, Minn., is spearheading the project. The sustainable energy project involves selling the energy to a power company such as Otter Tail Power.
Private power producers in Minnesota are under state mandate to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewables like wind and solar.
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