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Minnesota community wind project with big scale ambitions

Community ownership of wind plant is normally associated with small projects, but a local developer in Minnesota called National Wind is proposing a 300 MW facility for inclusion under Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) legislation. C-BED requires at least 51% in-state ownership and makes utilities pay a higher tariff for electricity in a project's early years in exchange for a lower tariff in later years -- helping local owners pay down debt and equity. Minnesota law calls for 800 MW of C-BED by 2010. "When we say 300 MW, it will likely be in at least two and maybe as many as four projects over the next three to six years," says National Wind's Pat Pelstring. The company's High Country Energy project is planned for near Rochester in south-eastern Minnesota. It will be financed using the "flip" model to gain access to wind's federal production tax credit (PTC), whereby an institutional investor draws the PTC for ten years before flipping ownership to local owners for the remaining life of the project. Pelstring says community support is very strong, economies of scale are a boon and they will manage to secure turbines with the help of an institutional investor that he declines to name. National Wind's first project, a 50 MW C-BED development near the wind Mecca of Buffalo Ridge in south-western Minnesota, will be online before the end of this year.

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