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‘Oil above the ground’: Algonquin Power Company, Geronimo Energy break ground on wind farm

Leaders from Geronimo and Algonquin wind energy companies pose with investors and county and township leaders in a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday afternoon for the new 200-megawatt Odell Wind Farm. The wind farm’s turbines will be erected in Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin and Watonwan counties. Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe

WINDOM — With a slight breeze creating a rustling of the leaves in a nearby soybean field, leaders from Algonquin Power Co. and Geronimo Energy, along with investors and local officials, broke ground Wednesday afternoon on a developing 200-megawatt wind farm in southwest Minnesota.

The Odell Wind Farm will consist of 100 turbines of 2 megawatts each, spread across wind-blown farm fields in Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin and Watonwan counties. Plans are to have the turbines fully operational by April.

The Odell project will be an economic boost to the region, pumping nearly $2 million in payments to landowners each year for the next 20 years. After that, Algonquin will renegotiate its contract with Northern States Power (Xcel Energy), and new agreements will be forged with landowners who have a turbine standing on their property.

In addition to the payments to landowners, the counties will share approximately $13.6 million in tax revenue over the course of the first 20 years of energy production from the turbines. Townships will collect an estimated $3.4 million during that same timeframe.

The wind farm will also create 15 full-time jobs and pay approximately $40,000 per year into a Community Fund to benefit the small towns within Odell Wind Farm’s 24,000-acre footprint.

Meanwhile, the construction process will also bring money to the region from approximately 200 workers — many temporarily relocated to the area — and from trucking and materials required to construct each tower. Algonquin Power estimates the impact to be $10 million. Its capital investment in infrastructure alone is $300 million to $350 million.

“I call wind ‘oil above the ground,’” Geronimo Energy founder and CEO Noel Rahn told a gathering of more than 50 people inside Windom’s Business, Arts and Recreation Center (BARC) prior to the groundbreaking ceremony. He said his goal is to bring money into small towns.

The community fund is something Rahn said no other wind farm developer is doing — that he knows of — and the money will directly benefit the people and communities. The money may be spent on anything from school projects to community pools, basketball courts or whatever the board chooses, he said.

Rahn, a graduate of Mountain Lake High School, began his foray into wind energy with the development of the 20-megawatt Odin Wind Farm on his family’s land.

The new Odell Wind Farm was initially planned by Geronimo Energy in 2009, and then sold to Algonquin Power in 2014. This marks Algonquin’s first project in Minnesota, although it already has wind farms in Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

“We appreciate the support all of you have given us,” Rahn said of the project. “Two hundred megawatts is a major league size and we couldn’t have done it without you.”

In seven years, Rahn said Geronimo has grown to production of 1,000 megawatts. Meanwhile, Algonquin Power has approximately 1,050 megawatts of installed generation capacity through interests in hydroelectric, wind, solar and thermal facilities.

Algonquin Power President Mike Snow said he’s pleased to be working with Geronimo on the Odell Wind Farm project, and that his company will be the owner and longtime operator of the wind farm.

Since construction began in May, Snow said more than 60 foundations have been excavated, with 40 cement foundations either finished or nearing completion. Each turbine base requires approximately 30 tons of rebar and anchor bolts, along with 380 cubic yards of concrete to construct.

Approximately 75 percent of the transmission line is complete, Snow added.

Turbine components are expected to arrive in October, and the towers will be erected through the winter months.

When the wind farm is completed, the energy harvested from the wind will be transmitted through nine miles of overhead transmission lines and 48 miles of underground lines. The wind farm will produce approximately 816.6 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, eliminating an estimated 563,087 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
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