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Agency makes baby step to wind power

Because of the cold, it may be a while before East Grand Forks receives power from its wind turbine. And when it does become operational, it will supply only a fraction of the city's electricity needs. But the wind turbine that sits just east of ...

Because of the cold, it may be a while before East Grand Forks receives power from its wind turbine.

And when it does become operational, it will supply only a fraction of the city's electricity needs.

But the wind turbine that sits just east of city limits is notable because it will supply the city's first renewable energy. "And it puts the generation where the customers are," consultant Derick Dahlen said. "People can relate to it because they can see it."

The turbine, located on farmland just west of the city industrial park's substation and outside the city limits, is owned by the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, an electricity wholesaler that serves East Grand Forks and 10 other cities.

Using federal money, MMPA is installing a turbine to serve each of its 11 cities. It's an initial baby step toward meeting the state mandate to have one-fourth of its power supplied by renewable sources by 2025.

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The wind turbine will supply a mere one-half of 1 percent of the city's peak needs, or enough to power 25 to 30 homes, said Dan Boyce, the general manager of East Grand Forks Water and Light.

The turbine is in place, having been transplanted from southern California, but some engineering is needed to get it running because of the cold temperature.

"The unit came from where it's warm," Dahlen said. "It's had some trouble operating in cold weather, like leaving a car outside on a cold day. It's produced some kilowatt hours, but only for a short period."

Although it's a small program, Dahlen said it is a symbolic and visual reminder to MMPA customers about renewable energy. He said 7 percent of Minnesotans agree to receive wind or hydro power even though they pay more for it. The wind turbine will not affect the electrical bills of East Grand Forks residents, however.

"Because they are refurbished units that came out of service in California and were replaced by larger ones, they were less expensive," Boyce said. "So, the power is coming out at a competitive cost."

The turbine was in place in late December after about seven weeks of installation. The power generated will go directly into East Grand Forks' power-distribution system, rather than having to travel many miles from wind farms.

The 115-foot turbine is about the same height as a water tower. It's about one-third the height of turbines on wind farms in southern Minnesota.

Other MMPA members receiving turbines are Anoka, Arlington, Brownton, Buffalo, Le Sueur, Faribault, Chaska, Olivia, Shakopee and Winthrop.

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