By Per Peterson
If you’ve ever wondered when the next wind turbines will be going up in the region, wonder no more.
Plum Creek Wind Farm, a proposed wind farm that will rise from the ground about 7 miles southeast of Tracy, is currently in the early stages of the planning process. Geronimo Energy estimates the project could be up to 400 MW in size and will deliver power to Cottonwood, Redwood and Murray counties.
Construction on the project is expected to commence sometime in 2021.
Lindsay Smith, director of marketing and communications for Geronimo Energy, said the project is expected to bring a “significant economic impact to the local community in the form of increased tax revenue, job creation, landowner payments and charitable funding.
“Geronimo Energy is excited to be back working in the southwestern region of Minnesota,” Smith said. “Our owner grew up in the Mountain Lake area, and Geronimo has developed five operating wind farms in the region: the Odell, Prairie Rose, South Fork, Marshall and Odin Wind Farms.
“As a Minnesota-headquartered company, we are proud to serve our home state and look forward to bringing significant economic impact to the area. Geronimo Energy’s mission is farmer-friendly, and we are committed to improving rural America, including the host communities for the Plum Creek Wind Farm,” Smith added.
The design process of the project’s layout is expected to begin soon and that will determine the final size and location and the project. After this is determined, Smith said, the permitting process will begin.
Smith said the location that has been chosen — the northwest corner of Cottonwood County — provides a strong wind resource and has “excellent access to transmission — key factors that make Plum Creek a strong market competitor for power off-take, Smith said.
Smith said it’s hard to pinpoint how much the wind farm would contribute to the region’s tax base.
“Looking at other similar projects, the potential tax revenue impacts could range from $18 million to $36 million over the life of the project,” said Smith.
The current demand for renewable energy is very strong, Smith said, notably in Minnesota. She said the American Wind energy Association last week said that wind energy job counts nationwide are at about 100,000 — which is about a 17% increase in jobs since 2015.
Smith estimates the project will result in 200 to 300 construction jobs and about 10 to 20 full time permanent jobs.
“In Minnesota alone, wind energy accounts for over 10,000 MW of energy and 4,000 jobs,” she said. “Minnesota wind-powered over 980,000 homes last year and contributed an estimated $50 million to the Minnesota economy in 2016.