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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Winona County Building Wind Power; Model for Madison/LAIC?

Fellow lake resident Rod Goeman pitched a pretty good idea to the Madison City Commission last year: he offered some of his land for a municipal wind power facility. Whether the city would use the power itself to keep its electric rates low or sold the power to other users to make money for taxpayers, some green muni-power seems like a great idea. The city thanked Goeman for his input... and I still haven't seen Chad Comes hauling turbine blades out to Goeman Acres.

Take heart, Rod: Winona County, Minnesota, thinks you have a good idea. The Winona County Commission has teamed up with private investors to build wind turbines. The county's Economic Development Authority is investing all of $68,000 to help build the $3.6 million project. They'll build two 1.5-megawatt turbines by next June and sell the power to XCel Energy. That investment will put green in electric sockets and taxpayers' pockets: the county expects a return of $865K to $1.12M over twenty years (see Winona County's Q&A sheet).

The project is the first such wind power public-private partnership in Minnesota, and Winona County is touting it as a model for economic development authorities around the state. Perhaps our own local economic development authority, the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, could take a cue as well. The LAIC could direct the city's and county's contributions to its coffers into a new local wind project. It could arrange a deal with Knight & Carver to get a discount on turbines in return for advertising for the Howard manufacturer on high-traffic Highway 34 just east of Madison. And some locally produced green power might peel back some of that rate increase Madison power customers are facing.

A string of wind turbines along Highway 34 pumping power into Madison would be a real sign of progress. They could even provide the electricity to run the waterfall on our Madison sign.

Footnote: Another good idea for our LAIC: the Winona County Economic Development Authority has a Local Foods Subcommittee.

Update 2009.09.21 08:12 CDT: Reimagine Rural notes the Winona project and points out that the City of Howard jumped into municipal wind power way back in 2001. With such an exemplar just one county over and with the improvements in turbine tech since then, I find it surprising Madison hasn't followed suit yet.

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