Wind turbines a positive development

Carleton’s turbine should signal the winds of change for Minnesota’s energy providers.

This weekend, Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., dedicated its newest construction project: a $1.8 million wind turbine. The structure, which will generate both power and revenue, was largely student-driven and represents a significant victory for clean, renewable energy in Minnesota.

The revolutionary technology maximizes energy output in areas of Minnesota with less-than-ideal wind conditions. Compared to southwest Minnesota, Northfield’s wind is only fair. But the new turbine will produce more than five kilowatt-hours of electricity per year – enough to cover approximately 40 percent of Carleton College’s electrical needs, or 550 homes. Carleton College will also sell electricity to Xcel Energy and expects to turn a profit in approximately 12 years.

Carleton College students requested the college start buying 10 percent of the campus’ energy from green sources. But Xcel Energy didn’t offer any at the time, and instead of hitting a brick wall, the students got a much better deal.

Such a good deal, in fact, that several other Minnesota schools are making way for their own turbines: St. Olaf College, also in Northfield; Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter; the University’s Morris campus; and the Wayzata public school system. If these turbines prove to be as successful as they promise to be, other Minnesota communities seeking locally generated, clean electricity will have a very viable option.

Ironically, some of the money for St. Olaf College’s turbine came from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund, the result of a decade-old compromise allowing more nuclear waste storage. The money is funding a project that will significantly reduce Northfield’s dependence on nuclear and fossil fuel energy.

Carleton College’s flagship turbine, and those to come, should signal the winds of change for Minnesota’s energy providers. The communities spearheading efforts to increase clean electricity generators are a model for Minnesotans to be proud of.