BIRD ISLAND – EDP Renewables’ proposal to build a wind farm near Bird Island is not the first time this area in Renville County has been considered for a renewable energy project.
One decade ago, a group of local investors known as Norfolk Wind Energy LLC was very interested in developing what would have been a 40-megawatt wind farm just south of the community. The proximity to a major transmission line and a substation that can serve as the on-ramp to it attracted the group’s attention.
The group had to abandon its plans after spending about $750,000 toward the project, with about $500,000 of that amount coming from a large company interested in the renewable energy it would produce, according to David Scheibel of Bird Island, the group’s former president.
“A matter of timing,” said Scheibel, explaining that challenges that existed at that point in time worked against the investors.
When the group looked to develop its project, demand by prospective wind developers to transmit power basically overwhelmed the entity that oversees the regional transmission grid, according to Scheibel. Known as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, it wanted project developers to contribute toward the costs for upgrades to the transmission system, including a line running from Rochester to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Scheibel said.
MISO initially proposed an interconnection fee for Norfolk Wind that exceeded any potential payout available through a power purchase agreement, he said.
Norfolk Wind was also looking to sell power at a time when major utilities were looking to buy electricity in larger blocks than the 40 megawatts it could offer, he added.
Norfolk also looked at a potential solar power project in the area, but without success. “We chased a lot of avenues trying to get a project together,” he said.
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