New project could break wind energy slump in Minnesota

Amid a broader slowdown in wind energy construction in Minnesota, one of the nation’s largest independent developers this week announced a proposal for a 200 MW project in southern Minnesota.

Invenergy LLC has outlined a project on a 29,000 acre site near Albert Lea would include around 100 turbines and employ 12 permanent staff members while creating 200 temporary construction jobs. Surrounding Freeborn County could see millions of dollars in tax revenues and lease payments to landowners over a number of years.

Prompting the proposal is the county’s “good wind resource,” the potential addition of new high voltage power lines and “the support of the community,” said business development vice president Kevin Parzyck.

The company had been working on getting agreements with landowners for the last six to seven years. MISO is looking at expanding high voltage lines in the region to allow for more wind development in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, he said.

In addition, the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and the need for some utilities to add more renewable energy to their generation mix, may give wind projects a potential boost, Parzyck said.

He clarified, however, the development is far from a done deal. No project documents have been filed yet with the Minnesota regulatory bodies. The company is working to eventually attract buyers to purchase the power output.

Another complicating factor is that the production tax credit (PTC) in Congress is still in limbo and could impact whether the project moves forward. He doubted the project will be submitted to the state in time for the next PTC deadline.

Without the tax credit, wind continues to struggle to be competitive with other generation sources, although the price gap is narrowing, he said. The performance of turbines has increased and the cost has dropped, Parzyck said, allowing wind to close in on “being competitive with all forms of generation.”

Invenergy owns and operates the 357 MW Cannon Falls Energy Center, a natural gas-fueled power generation facility that opened in 2008. The company has developed more than 9,000 MW of clean energy projects throughout the Midwest and the country.

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