Almost as if they are wild mushrooms blossoming out of the ground, wind turbines have been springing up all over the area southwest of Minneota, down to Arco, Ivanhoe and even Tyler. The mammoth wind project hovered over this group of cattle as they ignored the turbines while searching for grass to eat. These turbines were along County Road 9. A trucker hauls the turbine stack into the field and below that a worker attaches the crane to some of the scaffoldingAlmost like a city, the wind turbines are spread out over the countryside between Minneota and Taunton. A turbine is seen amongst a field of corn as it seemed to be growing faster than the crop.A turbine towered over the top of the silos at an area farm.

Windmills blossom like mushrooms

It's hard not to feel like the song “Windmills of your Mind”, if you have traveled from Minneota to Tyler recently.

More commonly referred to as wind turbines, these 80-meter towers with 54-meter blades that look like a fan used by King Kong are popping up all over the southwestern portion of Minnesota. These turbines are part of the Red Pine Wind Project that was developed out of the EDF Renewable Energy regional office in Minneapolis.

The area that includes the recent installation of 29 wind turbines is from Minneota to Ivanhoe south of Highway 19, north of Arco and on down to Tyler.

“We started the tower installations there on Aug. 4 (2017) and they can be put up one-a-day by crane,” said Jinnie Hall, Community Relations Manager for EDF Renewable Energy. Each wind turbine on the Red Pine Wind Project (named for the Minnesota State Tree) can generate 2.0 megawatts (MW) of power. These multiple wind turbines within one location are referred to as wind farms.

This wind farm will be fitted with 100, 2.0 megawatts (MW) turbines within Lincoln County, or 200 total megawatts.

It will tie into the CapX2-2- transmission line through the Hawk’s Nest Lake sub-station on the northern edge of the project.

Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives of Indiana is contracted to do the installation of the wind turbines and the project is expected to be completed on Dec. 22, 2017, Hall said. Anderson Trucking Service Inc. of St. Cloud is hauling the wind components.

The family-owned company has hauled nearly 200,000 wind components in the last 15 years, or nearly one in every three wind component transports across the country.

In the last few years, Anderson Trucking Service has leased and developed a train yard just off Highway 23 in Rockville. The yard that serves as the hub for its wind projects.

The components for wind turbines arrive by train to its yard before they are loaded by cranes onto their trucks.

Recently, traffic has been slowed or halted in some area while these large transport trucks maneuver a turn.

In Granite Falls, for example, the driver’s skillful turn south from the intersection of Highway 212 and 23 requires several traffic signs to be temporarily removed until the turn is complete.

Anderson Trucking Service, whose drivers are specially trained within the company to haul oversized loads, has 12 full-time employees that are solely used for the wind energy projects.

The towers come in three or four sections, which include three blades, a hub where the blades attach, and a cell component that serves as the brains of the turbine.

EDF Renewable Energy is attempting to use local labor, contractors and businesses as much as possible.

Local businesses and landowners already are being impacted by the project, which EDF Renewable Energy is estimating that around $1 million will be sent back to Lyon County and townships annually in wind energy production tax.

“This project is using a combination of two turbines,” said Hall. “Half of them are Vestas V100 and the other half Vestas 110.” EDF Renewable Energy acquired the Red Pine Wind project in 2015 while it was in the early stages of development from Infinity Wind, LLC.

“There are some developers whose primary business model is to establish project sites and complete the initial development activity at which point they would look for other developers to successfully market the project and finish preparing it for construction,” Hall explained about EDF Renewable Energy acquiring the project.

“Infinity Wind, LLC and EDF have had numerous successful transactions together using this same model.”

Approximately 180 landowners are participating in the Red Pine Wind Project, many of them hosting turbines.

Over 34,000 acres are signed into the project. “Each landowner in the project has a lease with EDF Renewable Energy,” said Hall.

Before choosing an area for a wind farm, EDF Renewable Energy factors in these main components:

1. Reliable wind speeds.

2. Transmission available to move the power from the turbines to the buyer.

3. Rural land to install turbines and support from the community.

4. A buyer for the power/project.

5. Environmental features.

6. Sensitive species. Lincoln County has a favorable environment in nearly all of those components, Hall said.

In a report to the Lincoln County board, EDF Renewable Energy assured that no tower would be constructed near a bald eagle’s nest and that a tower would immediately be shut down if an eagle would built its nest near a tower after construction.

And all county and township roads affected by the transporting of the towers will be restored to their original condition upon completion of the 100 turbines.

Lincoln County will also be home to an additional wind farm, known as Blazing Star, which is a project of Geronimo Energy of Minneapolis. Geronimo Energy is working with Xcel Energy for this project, which is in its in fact stages of development.

Completion dates of the two separate phases of this project are estimated to be in 2019 and 2020. Wind turbines have been spread across a major portion of southwest Minnesota in recent years because of strong winds in section of the state, as well as excellent access to transmission.

There are a few misconceptions about wind farms. For one, they do not create stray voltage due to unbalanced wind energy systems.

They also do not block, alter or reduce breezes; they do not generate air or water emissions, produce hazardous waste, or deplete natural resources. Wind turbines operate on a simple principle.

The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity.

A wind turbine functions in the opposite way than a fan does. Instead of using electricity to generate wind, wind turbines use wind to generate electricity.

Wind turbines convert kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical power. The mechanical power can then be used for things such as pumping water or grinding grain.

Or, the generator can convert this mechanical power into electricity.

Windmill in the corn. Staff photo by Byron Higgin.

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