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United States

Minnesota north gets first projects

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Minnesota Power, a small regional utility, is playing a large part in bringing the first two wind projects to the state's northern half with developments using 2.5 MW turbines made by American company Clipper and Nordex of Germany.

The 25 MW Taconite Ridge project, expected online next year, will be blowing in the wind near the boyhood home of Bob Dylan in a rough-hewn area called the Iron Range, known for lakes, forests and gaping open-pit iron ore mines. The $50 million development will place ten Clipper turbines on a ridge above the city of Virginia on property owned by US Steel's Minntac Mine. "We won't need any transmission and a substation is already there," says Eric Olson of Allete, Minnesota Power's Duluth parent. Taconite Ridge will be the company's first foray into wind asset ownership. It buys wind power from two 50 MW North Dakota projects owned by FPL Energy.

The other development, the 32.5 MW Bear Creek Wind Energy Project in west-central Minnesota's Todd County, will bring the Nordex 2.5 MW into the US for the first time. A test turbine is expected online this month and the other 12 will be operational by the end of 2008. A veteran wind turbine supplier, also to the US market, Nordex has sold nearly 3000 machines worldwide.

The project originated with PlainStates Energy, a local developer. The company's John Ihle has been in the wind industry since the early 1980s and befriended the founder of Nordex 15 years ago. Ten townspeople bought into Ihle's development and created Bear Creek Wind Partners. The project's 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Minnesota Power qualifies for support from the Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) program (Windpower Monthly, May 2007). PlainStates plans to bring another 20 MW of Nordex turbines online next year with a separate C-BED project.

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