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Southwest Minnesota celebrates newest wind farm completion

Noel Rahn (far left) stands with landowners and area leaders who gathered Wednesday to celebrate the commercial operation date for the Odell Wind Farm. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)1 / 2
Algonquin Power and Geronimo Energy celebrated the completion of the Odell Wind Farm Wednesday with a ceremonial flipping of the switch to start up this wind turbine in Jackson County. The wind farm consists of 100 turbines. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WINDOM -- Developers, landowners and local leaders gathered in Windom Wednesday noon to celebrate the completion of the 200-megawatt Odell Wind Farm. The farm’s 100 wind turbines are located in portions of Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin and Watonwan counties.

The project was the vision of Noel Rahn, an Odin native and founder and chairman of Geronimo Energy. Geronimo laid the groundwork for the project in 2009, and then sold its plans that same year to Algonquin Power. Six years later, construction began.

Capital investment in the Odell Wind Farm, which spans more than 24,000 acres, is estimated at between $300 and $350 million.

“This is an important day for me, personally, because I grew up in this area and Geronimo was born on my farm over in Odin,” Rahn said before a gathering of approximately 50 people at the Windom Community Center.

While noting there were a couple of rough spots during the construction of the Odell Wind Farm, primarily because of weather, Rahn said he appreciated the landowners for their willingness to be involved in the project.

“Without you farmers in this room, Geronimo would not be possible,” he said.

Construction of the turbines began in December and wrapped up in July. Wednesday’s gathering celebrated the commercial operation date for the farm.

“One of the reasons we started Geronimo is so the local communities know what’s happening,” Rahn said. “We want to inject money into the local community and our farmers. There are … millions of dollars that will accrue over the years for this area … for townships and counties. We hope this will hold your taxes steady to lower.”

Over the course of the next 20 years, the Odell Wind Farm is anticipated to have a $50 million direct impact on the local economy, from payments to participating landowners in excess of $1.1 million per year, tax revenue to counties and townships of approximately $850,000 per year, and a $40,000 per year contribution to the Odell Community Fund to be used to support charitable activities and opportunities to the entire community touched by the Odell Wind Farm. In addition, the completion of the wind farm resulted in the creation of 15 full-time jobs.

As the wind farm was under construction, an estimated $10 million was spent locally in living expenses by the approximately 200 construction workers.

During Wednesday’s program, Rahn offered background on Geronimo Energy, which began as a 20-megawatt wind project with three employees. It has since grown to include more than 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy projects, in both wind and solar, across Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“Last year we were the third most developed in megawatts in the country,” Rahn said, noting that his company now also has approximately 200 megawatts of solar projects, including the largest installation in Minnesota -- and it’s growing elsewhere.

“You will see more solar in Minnesota,” he said. “In the next 20 years, solar will become more prominent than wind because the sun is more prevalent than the wind.”

Algonquin Power, which now owns the Odell Wind Farm, generates and sells energy from facilities across North America. The company, founded in 1988, has offices in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan Canada, as well as California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas in the U.S.

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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