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Support for Renville Co. wind energy proposal is on the rise

OLIVIA -- A proposal to erect one of the state's largest wind farms amidst some of its most productive farm lands found clear sailing Tuesday with the Renville County Board of Commissioners.

The commissioners indicated they are likely to formally approve a request by Norfolk Wind Energy LLC to designate it a community-based energy development, or C-BED project.

Norfolk Wind is proposing to develop a 40-megawatt wind farm by erecting 20 large turbines -- each rated for 2 megawatts -- in Norfolk, Bird Island and Palmyra townships in the heart of Renville County.

The C-BED designation would help the company market its wind power to utilities, according to David Scheibel, company president. State law directs public utilities in the state to give consideration to C-BED projects when seeking new generation.

Legislation requiring state utilities to obtain 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, and wind power's increasingly competitive rates, will also benefit the project, according to information presented to the commissioners.

Nearly 8,900 acres of land has been lined up as possible sites for the turbines from 35 different landowners in the three Renville County townships, according to Scheibel and Tryg Sarsland, representing National Wind LLC, which is a partner in the venture.

Norfolk Wind erected a tower in April to gather wind data in the project area. It is also moving forward in the Midwest Independent System Operators queue process to gain access to the electrical transmission grid.

Norfolk Wind was launched two years ago when a state-sponsored study on distributive energy identified the Bird Island electrical substation as a "sweet spot.'' It's an area in the transmission grid where capacity exists to feed new energy into the system.

Come April, Norfolk Wind will have a full year's worth of data on the wind resource in the area to accurately predict how much electricity it can generate. That information is essential when Norfolk Wind seeks to negotiate an agreement to sell its power to a utility, according to Sarsland.

Norfolk Energy is hoping to erect its towers and begin producing power by the end of 2011, according to Scheibel. The 40 megawatts could power an estimated 12,000 homes.