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Company looks for customers in the wind

Wind farm firm calls Mower County site promising

By Amy Olson

aolson@postbulletin.com

A Texas-based renewable energy firm could begin building a large-scale wind turbine farm in Mower County as soon as it finds a buyer for the energy.

Michael Skelly, vice president of business development at Zilkha Renewable Energy, said wind conditions in central Mower County look promising after nearly a year of study. Zilkha is working to find buyers for the electricity before construction of a proposed 267 turbine wind farm -- tentatively named High Prairie -- could begin. The company is now studying where the supporting towers could be constructed. Officials hope to start construction within two years.

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Zilkha project development director Elizabeth Hutchinson said the company hopes to negotiate a contract with Xcel Energy, which must buy 400 megawatts of "green power" by 2008. Zilkha is also looking at other potential wholesale buyers.

Zilkha has acquired options from 100 landowners to build the proposed farm, stretching through east-central Mower County. Hutchinson said the company could seek options on more land in southern Mower County to link the High Prairie farm with a wind turbine farm the company wants to build in Iowa. That project has been tentatively named the Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm.

The proposed High Prairie Wind Farm site has the potential to feed power into the grid at the nearby Adams Substation. The proposed 400-megawatt farm has the potential to produce as much energy as a coal-fired or nuclear power plant, Hutchinson said.

Wind speeds along Buffalo Ridge in western Minnesota are even better for producing wind power, but development has stalled there because transmission lines are overloaded.

Fredrick Baldus owns an 80-acre Clayton Township farm that could soon be home to some of the proposed turbines. He said he's eager to see progress.

Baldus lives on a 160-acre farm in Grand Meadow Township and would like to interest the company in building turbines there as well. He thinks the proposed wind farm could have great economic benefits for area farmers.

"We need a new crop. If it would be wind, that would be all right," he said.

Zilkha officials recognize the landowners' desire to see progress, but things sometimes move slowly and require "the patience of Job," Skelly said.

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"This would be a huge thing for owners of windy land," he said.

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