U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
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Overcoming Challenges to Community Wind Will Result in Big Benefits

Overcoming Challenges to Community Wind Will Result in Big Benefits

Date: 3/11/2009

Location: MN

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with Mark Willers, Minwind Energy CEO (MP3 2.1 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:14.

It isn't always easy getting a community wind project started — but the benefits are worth the effort. That's according to Mark Willers, CEO of Minwind Energy, a company formed by agricultural producers and leaders in Minnesota.

Among the barriers to achieving a broad and robust build-out of a community-owned wind future, according to Willers, are the need for large amounts of capital quick, the permitting procedure, and the United States tax code.

"The tax code continues to be an interesting situation of who can use certain aspects of a project, who we combine with, that's always a challenge. The key couple of components over the last several years has been the cost of turbines in a market that is expanding rapidly; the ability to hook to a transmission system, studies take time. It's a pre-capital intensive market and people need to understand it takes awhile to do it correctly."

Willers says the challenge of securing capital is an even bigger issue due to the current economic climate. He says that could lead to some changes in the area of community wind.

"In the long-term, right now where capital is in the marketplace, we're going to see a much different ownership model in the next five years than we did in the last five years. Because of where capital is laying, who can have access to it, I think that we're going to have to look at all different models."

But with the right model in place, Willers says communities greatly benefit from community wind projects.

"You can keep extra revenues from the wind turbines in the local community. And also, not only do you have the local ownership piece, but you also have, like in our projects, we have young children do tours, we have the physics and mathematics classes from schools do problem solving and we help the kids with some of those. So they're interested in getting into renewable sources of energy and they learn about it and they see where it's going on and they understand that people can do this."

Some of the models currently in practice include the Minnesota Flip, the Cooperative model, and the Minwind model.

This information was last updated on March 11, 2009