Wind turbines in Lincoln County to be refurbished

LAKE BENTON — About 100 wind turbines will be refurbished near Lake Benton, according to the company working on the project.

“The refurbishing has already started,” ALLETE Clean Energy President Allan Rudeck, Jr. said. “About a dozen have already been done. Next summer 100 at each site (including two sites in Iowa) over the next three years.”

About 35 turbines are scheduled for refurbishment each year in Lake Benton. That way the servers, buyers like Xcel Energy and the landowners, will not be inconvenienced, Rudeck said.

Each turbine will be down for about two to three days, sometimes even less,” he said. “The project will improve turbine performance and reliability and generate federal production tax credits at each site.”

The turbine refurbishment project follows ALLETE Clean Energy’s December 2016 $100 million investment in wind turbine components that meet the standards for the production tax credit “safe harbor” provision.

The refurbishing will be staged from 2017 through 2020 to minimize turbine downtime and maximize safe energy production at each site, the company said. In total, the sites produce approximately 700,000 megawatt hours of energy per year, representing about 50 percent of ALLETE Clean Energy’s current electricity sales.

In addition to the turbine refurbishments, the project includes installing new communications infrastructure at the sites to better integrate them into ALLETE Clean Energy’s corporate operations structure. New fiber optic connections, servers and data acquisition and management systems will improve the operation of each site and insure the best performance.

“As a central part of ALLETE Clean Energy’s multifaceted growth strategy, this $80 million reinvestment will contribute to future earnings growth,” Rudeck said. “Revenue from our existing wind sites, such as Lake Benton, is the foundation for ALLETE Clean Energy’s momentum and growth. Neighboring communities also benefit by keeping these older sites viable and valuable, which maintains jobs and landowner payments.”

Rudeck said ALLETE sent letters to landowners promising to respect their property during this time.

ALLETE Clean Energy wind farms meet or exceed all setback requirements, Rudeck said, and he is not aware of any complaints regarding flicker shadow or noise that has bothered residents in other areas.

“We’ve always been concerned about community engagement, transparency and creating good relationships with landowners,” Rudeck said.

Rudeck cited an economic benefit from the project. He said staffing will double during refurbishment.

“There will be more trucks and cranes, of course,” he said. “But there will also be more pizza dollars and other economic increases during this time.”

Energy from the Lake Benton site is fully contracted through 2028, ALLETE Clean Energy said in a news release.