Southwest Minnesota is an ideal location for wind turbines. Its consistent, high wind speeds, areas of high elevation due to the Buffalo Ridge, and plenty of open farm and pasture land have made this region a major hub of wind power activity:
-Suzlon Energy, an Indian wind turbine manufacturer, located their only United States manufacturing facility in Pipestone. This plant manufactures and supplies wind turbine rotor blades and nose cones.
-Murray and Nobles Counties are home to the Fenton Wind Project, the largest wind farm in Minnesota to date. This 205.5 MW project is 7 miles long by 7 miles wide and is expected to produce enough power per year for more than 66,600 homes.
-enXco Service Corporation has a wind turbine Operations Control Center in Chandler from which they provide operations, maintenance and remote monitoring for wind farms across the Midwest.
There are close to 1000 wind turbines in the 6 counties of Southwest Minnesota. Check out this link to a map of all known commercial sized wind turbines in Minnesota:
Note the cluster of wind turbines in Southwest Minnesota. Some of the best viewing locations are on State Highway 30 in Pipestone County and State Highways 30 and 91 in Murray County. Be safe and pull off the road if you want to get a good look. Click here for a location map.
Commercial Wind Turbines - Frequently asked questions (FAQs):
How do wind turbines produce energy?
A wind turbine works the opposite of how a fan works. Instead of using electricity to make wind, wind turbines use wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator to produce electricity. The electricity is then sent through transmission and distribution lines to homes, businesses, etc.
What’s the difference between a “windmill” and a “wind turbine”?
Windmills use the power produced by the spinning blades to do a specific task, such as grind grain or pump water. A wind turbine is a version of a windmill with a specific task - to produce electricity.
How much power can a wind turbine produce?
The wind turbines you see in Southwest Minnesota were erected as early as 1994 and are still being built today. The earlier turbines produced enough energy to power up to 125 homes each. The newer turbines can each provide for the electricity needs of up to 275 homes.
Who owns the wind turbines?
Most of the wind turbines you see in this region are owned by national and multi-national utilities which lease the land from area landowners. In addition to lease payments, the landowners usually receive a percentage of revenue from the sale of energy produced by each turbine. But there are some locally owned wind turbines as well. In fact, in 2005 the Minnesota legislature adopted a community-based energy development (C-BED) policy to encourage local development and ownership of renewable energy production.
What is a “wind farm”?
A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in the same location, owned and maintained by the same company.
How big are the wind turbines?
From the base of the tower to the tip of the highest blade, a wind turbine can be up to 365 feet tall. For an idea of how tall that really is, compare to the height of the U.S. Capital (288 feet) or the Empire State Building (1,250 feet).
The bases of the turbines are up to 16 feet in diameter. The foundations run as deep as 30 feet into the ground. They are about 16’ across and require 350 – 400 yards of concrete.
Where does the power go?
The power produced by the wind turbines enters the electric grid and goes wherever the need is. Most of the power leaves our area of the state to meet electricity needs in larger cities.
Are wind turbines dangerous to birds?
Wind turbines are not any more dangerous to birds than a number of other hazards: Utility lines, tall buildings, automobiles, lighted communication towers, agricultural pesticides, feral and tame cats… It’s true that older wind turbines were more dangerous to birds, as their blades spun faster and their open design encouraged birds to nest on the towers. The newer wind turbines are much safer for birds, but we do need to take care to site wind turbines away from migratory bird flight paths or the flight paths of threatened or rare species.
Can wind energy be stored?
Not yet, but this is an important next step in harnessing the energy of the wind. Xcel Energy’s “Wind-To-Battery Project” is testing a battery storage system for wind-generated power near Luverne, MN.