Minnesota wind power expands
ST. PAUL — Minnesotans who like neat hair may not like it, but the state blessed with strong winds is saving money by using it to create more electricity every year.
The American Wind Energy Association announced Wednesday, April 19 that more than 15 percent of the state's electricity comes from wind power. That figure is predicted to double by 2021.
Minnesota's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, produces 19 percent of its power by wind, expected to increase to 34 percent in five years.
"As the nation's top utility wind provider for more than a decade, we've demonstrated how this renewable resource can deliver both economic value and environmental benefits for our customers and that is why we're continuing to make significant investments in wind energy," said Ben Fowke, Xcel's chairman, president and CEO.
Fowke, talking to reporters in the Capitol complex, said his company has reduced carbon emissions — such as from coal-fired power plants — 30 percent since 2005. "But we are not satisfied with that."
Fowke joined others from the wind power industry to promote its benefits. They said up to 4,000 Minnesota jobs came from wind power last year, with total land lease payments, mostly to farmers, of up to $15 million.
President Chris Brown of Vestas Americas, maker of wind power generators, said every wind turbine brings with it 44 jobs, ranging from construction workers to engineers. After built, they need people to maintain the equipment.
"It is a major economic growth factor," Brown said.
Vice President Doug Frederickson of Avon, Minn.-based Blattner Energy said 80 percent of new energy production comes from wind.
While Minnesota was celebrating its position, it is not alone in the Upper Midwest. The wind power association reported that nearly 37 percent of Iowa's electricity comes from wind, 30 percent in South Dakota and 22 percent in North Dakota.
At least 40 factories supplying the wind power industry are in the Upper Midwest.