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Getting More Minnesota Wind Power on the Grid

PHOTO: Wind turbines dot the landscape in Pipestone County in southwest Minnesota. The Center for Rural Affairs says more high voltage transmission lines will help get wind generated electricity on the grid. CREDIT: cariliv
PHOTO: Wind turbines dot the landscape in Pipestone County in southwest Minnesota. The Center for Rural Affairs says more high voltage transmission lines will help get wind generated electricity on the grid. CREDIT: cariliv
February 25, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - There is a treasure trove of renewable energy in Minnesota and around the United States, but the obstacles and barriers to getting it on the grid are many.

According to Johnathan Hladik, energy policy advocate with the Center for Rural Affairs, the biggest hurdle right now is the lack of high-voltage transmission lines. He said adding to that infrastructure would allow for the use of more renewable resources, while helping with rural economic development.

"There is so much opportunity associated with increased property tax paid by wind turbine owners and by those building transmission lines, with the actual construction jobs associated with both the wind turbines and the transmission lines," Hladik said. "We're looking at a good way to rejuvenate a lot of our smaller communities."

Currently, less than 1 percent of the country's transmission lines with the greatest capacity are located in the states with the most wind energy potential.

Hladik said the problem is that, when lines were built, historically they focused on one big power plant, serving one large municipal area, while smaller lines were put up in rural areas.

"This old model led to a situation where the only high-capacity transmission lines in the United States, quite literally, are located in areas of very high population density, which are the exact opposite areas of where our wind resources are most robust," he stated.

As for Minnesota specifically, Hladik says the wind energy potential is very rich.

"Especially when you talk about southwestern Minnesota, there are a lot of efforts to move that wind energy to places that need it most," he said. "It's recognized that rural Minnesota has a lot to offer, and there are a lot of communities in rural Minnesota that will really benefit strongly from tapping those wind resources."

Electricity generation from renewable energy in the U.S. is currently at about 10 percent of the total. That is expected to grow to 15 percent over the next 20 years.

More information is at CFRA.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN