With tax credit in doubt, wind industry ponders future

UPDATED 9/28/2011 Minnesota wind developer Dan Juhl has seen the scenario before.The wind production tax credit – seen as a key incentive to bringing new wind energy projects online – nears its expiration date, expires without legislative action and then comes barreling back, reviving the industry after a period of stagnation.It’s a sequence of events that has played out three times in the last decade, most recently in 2003, and is unfolding again today. The current tax credit, which provides developers with 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced from utility-scale wind turbines, is set to expire at the end of 2012.Industry officials have called for a long-term extension, but so far no action has been taken. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently said he was “not confident” it would pass given the mood in Washington, and wind energy proponents said they would not hazard to guess at its fate.You would think that Juhl, the chairman and chief executive at Juhl Wind Inc., would be carefully tracking the issue. His company is behind four of the 15 new wind energy projects expected to come online in Minnesota before 2012, and has longer-term ambitions.But Juhl said he no longer relies on the whims of Congress when thinking about the future. The need for alternative energy, he said, is simply too strong to be tempered by tax policy, he said. Continue Reading

Standing up for veterans in Minnesota

Doran Hocker came home from the Vietnam War and spent the next three decades floating from couch to couch, coping with the memories of war at the same time he surrounded himself with drug dealers, pimps and murderers.“I tried to kill myself for 30 years,” he says as he recounts the experience now. “There were a lot of things that happened that I just couldn’t cope with.”Hocker’s lifestyle changed dramatically in 2003 when, tired of the lifestyle he was leading, he moved from Detroit to St. Paul to live with his brother. One day shortly after the move, he said, he woke up and simply decided to go for a walk.He ended up at the Dorothy Day Center, the St. Paul homeless shelter run by Catholic Charities. Continue Reading

Fruits of the City freshens food shelf fare in Twin Cities

Food shelf organizers have grown accustomed to getting by with what they are given – expired and unwanted canned goods, products that flop with consumers and store-brand items that occupy the bottom shelves of the supermarket.While thankful for anything they are given, food shelf organizers say they are increasingly interested in providing those in need with fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables.One way to feed that demand – at least between the months of August and October – is to take advantage of often overlooked fruit trees that dot the metropolitan landscape.Enter the Minnesota Project and its Fruits of the City initiative. The program connects fruit-tree owners and food shelves in an attempt to infuse apples and pears into the diets of the disadvantaged. The fruit-tree owners allow volunteer fruit pickers onto their property, and the fruit that is picked is donated to food shelves.How to get involvedTo volunteer with the Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City Program, visit their website or e-mail fruits@mnproject.org. A kick-off event will also be held on Wednesday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Jaycees Shelter in Roseville Central Park, Roseville.The so-called fruit gleaning effort, inspired by a similar initiative in Seattle, Wash., began in the Twin Cities three years ago and has grown rapidly since its inception.After collecting 16,000 pounds of fruit from trees around Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding suburbs during the first year, last year’s collection grew to 23,000 pounds of fruit. Continue Reading