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Wind farm firm has eye on Grand Meadow

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Xcel Energy is asking Minnesota regulators for permission to build and own a 100-megawatt wind farm in the Grand Meadow area.

Xcel Energy has contracted with enXco Development Corp., which develops, operates and manages wind-energy projects throughout the United States, to build the wind farm on 40 square miles of land in central Mower County, including in Grand Meadow, Clayton and Pleasant Valley townships, about 20 miles east of Austin. The city of Elkton is also within the study boundary.

The proposed Grand Meadow Wind Farm would be the first wind farm Xcel owns in Minnesota, and would consist of 67, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines.

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Although Xcel already has an agreement with enXco to develop the farm, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission needs to approve it.

Mary Sandok of Xcel said it could be a few months before the commission acts on the request.

According to Sandok, the financial terms of the agreement could not yet be disclosed, but these types of projects are paid for by customers through the rate systems.

"It would go toward meeting the requirements we have in Minnesota for additional wind in our system," said Sandok.

It is estimated that the company will have to add between 3,000 and 3,400 megawatts of wind generation to its Minnesota system by 2020 to meet Minnesota’s renewable energy standards. A new law requires that at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable power sources by 2025.

If built, the wind farm could be a benefit for Riverland Community College students. The school is considering a wind energy program. More than $880,000 in state funds is available to be divided between Riverland and three other community colleges to create pilot programs that will teach new ways of incorporating renewable energy into communities.

If approved by the commission, the wind farm would likely be operational by the end of 2008.

For more information on wind energy, go to postbulletin.com/weblinks.

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