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ISSUE 116 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/1/2002

Wind powers plans

By Megan Parker
Staff Writer

Friday, November 1, 2002

A Northfield task force has determined that wind energy is a viable option in this area and has enlisted the support of Northfield Public Schools and Carleton College to work on the development of local wind-energy projects.

According to task force members, wind energy, the fastest-growing source of new electrical generation capacity, presents the possibility of educational, economic, and environmental advantages to the Northfield community.

"The time is right to develop wind energy projects in the Northfield area," said RENew Northfield (Reneweable Energy for a New Northfield) member Bruce Anderson.

At an Oct. 24 community meeting hosted by the Northfield School District,

Carleton, and RENew Northfield, wind energy task force members presented information on the projects and an-swered questions from the public.

Fifty percent of Northfield’s electricity is currently produced by Xcel Energy, which uses coal and nuclear power. Annually, Northfield residents spend $12,000,000 or $700 per capita on energy expenses.

Those involved in the project feel local wind energy projects will keep more money in the local economy and will offer greater local control over the cost and supply of energy.

Two sites in the Northfield area have been identified as areas with adequate wind resources and sufficient access to electrical distribution infrastructure.

The projects, currently hosted by the Northfield School District and Carleton, will run simultaneously. Others, such as private investors, are still welcome to join the projects.

Its potential benefits appeal to those already involved, such as Carleton.

"We’re interested in education and the environment," said Richard Strong, Carleton’s director of facility planning and management and co-chair of their Environmental Advisory Committee.

At this point, St. Olaf has made no commitment to the projects. Because of its generator, St. Olaf annually pays 25 percent less on energy than does Carleton, which makes the economic incentives less attractive to St. Olaf.

"It’s not that we don’t have interest,” said Pete Sandberg, St. Olaf director of facilities.

Sandberg also noted the college needs to take care of more basic projects just to keep the school running before they can think about wind energy projects.

"We’re not at a point where we could do a project this coming year. Unless it would all be borrowed we wouldn’t have the capital from our regular budget," he said.

St. Olaf biology professor Eugene Bakko said, "I would love to see the college be able to venture into something like [wind energy.] However, the economic climate is another thing and money is tight right now and I fully understand why the college wouldn’t pursue something like this."

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