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State legislators last year mandated 425 MW of wind in Minnesota by the year 2002. The hearing on the next phase of Buffalo Ridge wind development in January caused no controversy. The 100 MW should be on-line by May 1996.

There was little comment on the next phase of Buffalo Ridge wind development at a hearing late last month. But the poor attendance by both public and politicians did not mean the 100 MW of wind is not wanted -- it just indicated it is not controversial, says David Jacobson, a statistical analyst for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

In an unusual move, state legislators last year mandated 425 MW of wind in Minnesota by the year 2002. The mandate does not break any local, state or federal laws, testified Elizabeth Donati, a rate analyst for the state Department of Public Service, who spoke behalf of the development. The hearing in St Paul, scheduled for January 19 and 20, was to gauge if state regulators should issue a so-called certificate of need to Northern States Power (NSP), the utility which has been ordered to build the wind capacity. It was over in two hours. For issuance of a certificate, regulators must decide if there is a more reasonable alternative to the type of power plant being considered. Since the legislators had specified that it must be wind, the point was moot. Also at issue was the proposed facility's impact on the local area. But the exact location of turbines was not known as bidders had not been selected, testified Donati. She did, however, say a horizontal axis turbine was preferable. "Vertical blades take up too much space. " Even so, a specific review of different turbines had not been completed.

NSP issued its request for proposals for the 100 MW in October. Bids were due January 13. The outcome is to be issued this spring, and a decision made two or three months later. A decision on a site certificate is expected by the state Environmental Quality Board in July. The entire 100 MW should then be on-line as early as May, 1996.

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