Across the country, wind energy is increasingly emerging as an economically and environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels like oil and coal. Nowhere is this more true than in the state of Minnesota, where wind energy currently accounts for roughly 16% of total energy production (and growing).
Recent growth in the renewable energy industry is fueled by several factors including better turbine technology, more efficient storage, changing market realities, and government support through subsidies and tax credits. In Minnesota, the state government has even stipulated that the whole state receive 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
So, it should come as no surprise to local residents that private companies are eager to invest western Minnesota, which is ideally suited for wind farms. One such company is Renewable Energy Solutions (RES), which is already making plans to put a new wind farm online by the end of 2019.
Their proposed wind farm will consist of 37 individual turbines capable of producing 152 MW located about four miles west of Canby. According to Michelle Mathews, who works out of the company’s Minneapolis office, a formal project agreement will be signed by early 2018, and they hope to acquire the final project permits by the end of the same year. Then comes construction, which Mathews says should wrap up by the end of 2019, after which the site will be ready to go online.
Matthews acknowledges that this schedule isn’t set in stone, and anticipates that things might change depending on how quickly the project gains regulatory approval. RES is pitching the project as a major financial boon to the area while also diversifying the local economy. According to RES, the project will create 150 temporary construction jobs and 4-6 permanent full time jobs.
Some residents and local officials remain skeptical. During their presentation before the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners, representatives from the company were asked about complaints raised by local property owners irritated by the large wind towers. Sean Flannery, who serves as permitting director for RES, clarified that wind towers were only built with property owner permission.
Board Chairman Gary Johnson, meanwhile, wanted to know where the energy produced by the turbines went. Flannery explained that the energy would not be consumed locally, but would be carried to South Dakota and sold back into the energy grid. Still, he insisted that the wind farm would still bring economic benefits even if the energy is not consumed here.
Members of the Board also wanted to know how the presence of large turbines would impact the ability of farmers to build future structures on their lines while still complying with state regulations.
The project is still far from done. RES representatives plan on meeting with more local government officials and residents to answer questions and respond to criticism. RES will also need to negotiate a highway agreement with Yellow Medicine County before construction begins.