Renewable communities

Print

A new community-owned wind farm will further Minnesota’s renewable energy goals.

minnesota took another step forward this month in its pursuit of renewable energy. The southeastern counties of Olmstead and Dodge will soon be home to the country’s largest community-owned wind farm.

The new project is feasible, in part, due to state legislation over the past couple of years. In 2005, the state passed legislation encouraging Community-Based Energy Development. C-BED projects are owned by local community members, and no single person may own more than 15 percent of the project. This encourages groups of citizens to invest: The profits go right back into the community, not into the pockets of nationwide electric companies.

The state legislation also creates a market for the C-BED programs. If electric utilities wish to increase their use of wind power, they must consider purchasing wind power from community-owned projects. If the utility fails to make a good-faith effort to include community projects, the state’s Public Utilities Commission might revoke their right to build other projects.

The announcement of this new C-BED project could be the start of many similar enterprises. The 2005 C-BED legislation, coupled with Minnesota’s new renewable energy standard and the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, has created an atmosphere that is ripe for this type of community action.

The completed wind farm will not only benefit the local community, it will introduce a significant amount of renewable energy. The completed project is expected to have a capacity of 300 megawatts. By comparison, the Prairie Island nuclear plant has a capacity of roughly 1,000 megawatts.

Time will tell if this type of energy development will become profitable or viable, but the state has done an excellent job creating the necessary incentives, and we hope the idea catches on across the country. Keeping local money invested in such projects will benefit local economies as well as our environment.