In July, 2016, Jeff Hammond of Tradewinds Energy and local investor Alan Blum announced the investment of up to 500 megawatts of wind power into Emmet and Dickinson counties, with most of the investment in Emmet County. The project area encompasses approximately 80,000 acres and involves around 150 landowners.
At that point, Blum and other investors had spent a decade attempting to get the project off the ground. The short-circuiting of progress was rooted in the fact that there were no transmitters in the area to convey the electric power.
The project received a surge when Mid-American Energy built a transmission line in Clay County.
However according to Lyle Hevern, Estherville and Emmet County Economic Development Director, those transmitters were full before they were completed.
Project director Hammond said the project has faced a series of timing issues and frustrations.
MISO Energy of Eagan, Minn., operates the grid. A non-profit, member-based organization, MISO operates electric delivery systems across all or parts of 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province. That’s approximately 65,000 miles of high-voltage transmission and 200,000 megawatts of power-generating resources across its footprint.
Hevern said MISO is tasked with determining whether a transmission system can handle an additional load, including how 500 megawatts of power from RedRock and NorthStar (the Dickinson County portion of the project) will impact the grid.
Hevern said, “The RedRock project might have to trim back. MISO laid a huge financial commitment for building more infrastructure. Downsizing is an option we’re looking at to make it more affordable.”
In Dickinson County, the NorthStar project scaled back from 200 megawatts to 74, in part due to the eagle factor. The U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife eliminated 40 turbines.
This is not the end, Hevern said. “Jeff [Hammond] is optimistic. They have spent a lot of money and have a lot more to spend. There’s too much invested to let it die.”