Wind farms to light up region

LINCOLN COUNTY — Senior Project Developer Shanelle Montana with EDF Renewable Energy of Minneapolis has been making regular reports to the Lincoln County Board regarding the Red Pine Wind Energy Project that will soon be under construction.

Red Pine Wind Project LLC is a subsidiary of EDF Renewable Energy.

“We acquired this project in early development from Infinity Wind, LLC in 2015.  It had been in early development before that,” Montana said. “Our project boundary is currently going through the permitting process and will not change.

“We have approximately 140 landowners for the Red Pine project and we have roughly 34,000 acres signed into the project. We have 100, 2.0 MW (mega watts) turbines going into the project equaling 200 MWs total for the entire project.”

All turbines will be within Lincoln County, she said.

Montana said that Red Pine will be operational Dec. 31.

“We will tie into the CapX2020 transmission line through the Hawks Nest Lake Substation located on the northern end of the project. Lincoln County has already seen some of the benefits promised from the project,” Montana said.

“We are very focused on using local labor, contractors, and businesses when possible,” she said. “Impacts will be and have been seen in local restaurants, construction companies, landowner income, and when the project is constructed we estimate approximately $1 million annually being sent back to the county and townships in wind energy production tax.”

To get to this point, EDF Renewable Energy shared its plans with county residents and commissioners.

“We look for a number of things when siting a wind farm: wind resource, current land use, transmission access, environmental features, sensitive species and many more. The area we selected in Lincoln County had a favorable environment in most of those categories,” Montana said. 

 “We have had numerous landowner meetings since 2015. In December 2016 we held a public information session at the Ivanhoe VFW to discuss the permitting process and the project as a whole. “We have had tremendous community support. There has been no opposition. 

“Additionally, in March, 2017 we held a public input meeting along with the state of Minnesota to discuss the project and the permitting process (also held at the Ivanhoe VFW). At both meetings we had good attendance, about 30-50 people, throughout the event. We have also presented at the Lincoln County commissioners meetings.”

The company has been wading through the paperwork to get to construction in mid-summer.

“We have been diligently working through the permitting process and expect to be able to start construction this July,” Montana said. “Our project has gone through a process call ‘micrositing,’ which has determined exact locations for each turbine, and we have completed a civil design to determine access road locations. Additionally, we have started to plan construction timing and deliveries.”

Montana also assured the county board that no tower will be constructed near a bald eagle’s nest. She also said a tower will be shut down if an eagle would happen to build a nest near it after construction. Additionally, the county and township roads will be restored to the condition they were in when the project began, which was confirmed by Lincoln County Board Chairman Rick Hamer.

Lincoln County will also be home to a second wind farm, called Blazing Star.

Blazing Star Wind Farm is a project of Geronimo Energy, which is based in Minneapolis. It is working with Xcel energy on this project.

“Phase 1 is approximately 35,000 acres,” Lindsay Smith said. She is director of marketing and communications with Geronimo Energy. “Phase 2 is also approximately 35,000 acres.”

Smith said both phases are 200 MW. Phase 1 is mid-stage development while Phase 2 is an early-stage development. She gave the estimated dates of completion for each phase as 2019 and 2020, respectively.

The project from construction to beyond completion is expected to have an economic benefit to the community.

“As with all wind energy projects, Blazing Star will contribute significantly to the local community in the form of tax revenue, landowner payments, local spending, job creation and charitable giving,” Smith said. “Current estimates are the project(s) will contribute approximately $60-$120 million over 20 years of operation.”

Smith explained why southwest Minnesota, Lincoln County in particular, is a popular place for wind farms.

“The wind resource in this area is very strong, and there is excellent access to transmission,” she said. “These are key actors that make these projects strong market competitors for power off-take.”

Geronimo Energy is excited to be back working in the southwestern region of Minnesota, she said. Its owner grew up in the Mountain Lake area. Additionally, Geronimo has developed five operating wind farms in the region, including the Odell, Prairie Rose, South Fork, Marshall and Odin wind farms.

“As a Minnesota-headquartered company, we are proud to serve our home state and look forward to bringing significant economic impact to this area,” Smith said. “Geronimo’s mission is farmer-friendly, and we are committed to improving rural America, including the host communities for the Plum Creek Wind Farm.”

The Plum Creek Wind Farm is located in Cottonwood, Murray and Redwood counties and covers up to 70,000 acres, Smith said. It is in an early-stage development. Its estimated completion date is 2021.

Once operational, Smith said, farmers and their livestock can work right next to and walk directly up to the turbines.

“Many livestock have been known to actually rub up against the base to scratch their backs,” Smith said. “We have heard from past and current landowners that the access roads that lead to each turbine are helpful in their farming process an day-to-day operations.”

Smith claims both projects face little opposition and attracted strong community and landowner support. She also said both projects are in the design phase.

In addressing safety, Smith said wind farms do not create stray voltage because wind energy systems are balanced, three-phase systems that do not use the ground for any return or unbalanced current. He also said the state has an extensive environmental permitting process that is designed to protect citizens, property and livestock.

Wind farms do not block or reduce breezes, either.

“Wind farms help the environment tremendously. Wind farms do not generate air or water emissions, produce any hazardous waste, deplete natural resources, cause environmental damage through resource extraction and transportation, or require significant amounts of water during operation.

Wind power’s pollutant-free electricity helps offset the environmental damage caused by other forms of power generation,” Smith said.

Geronimo is the current owner and developer for both phases of the Blazing Star Wind Farms.

Last year, Xcel Energy announced it will bring Blazing Star projects (and others) to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for approval to build and own them.

Geronimo is the sole owner of Plum Creek Wind Farm.

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