The Mower County Board recently granted initial approval to what could lead to another 50 megawatts of wind energy in the county. By the end of this year, wind farms in the county will be generating about 600 megawatts.
With several wind farms already operating and another being built, the county is a wind-energy hot spot in Minnesota. The area of the state with the most wind farms, by far, is the far southwest, where more than 1,000 turbines generate more than 3,000 megawatts of power as of a year ago, according the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
On Jan. 6, the Mower County Board approved a permit for EDF Renewable Energy to build a meteorological tower about three miles southeast of Taopi in Lodi Township, said County Coordinator Craig Oscarson. That tower will record data on how often, and how hard, the wind blows before the company proceeds with its plans for 50 megawatts of wind power there, he said.
In the past, it has taken a few years after that first step before a complete wind farm was built, Oscarson said. The county will have to give the project a few permits, but most of the permitting is up to the state, he said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, there are 253 turbines at various wind farms in Mower County generating 423.95 megawatts of power.
The Pleasant Valley wind farm will add another 200 megawatts, with most of the farm's 100 turbines in Mower County, but some in Dodge County. That plan is to have that project up and running next fall, said Justin Markell, development manager. "We are on schedule," he said.
Minnesota ranks seventh nationally for wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In 2013, 15.7 percent of all in-state Minnesota electrical production came from turbines, it stated. That is enough to provide electricity for 744,000 homes.