WILMONT - The Nobles 2 wind farm project is planned for construction in 2019, and Nobles County is the perfect place for it.
The economic benefits of the project are also potentially significant. One substantial positive is jobs, as Tenaska estimates Nobles 2 will provide 230 jobs during construction and 15 jobs for everyday operations - which are projected to last until 2050.
Nobles 2 will also bring more money into the economy, as its development will cost $350 million to $400 million, with an additional $1.1 million yearly in taxes.
In the wind energy industry, a small town like Wilmont is “more competitive than Chicago,” said Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Abraham Algadi. This is because a wind farm is what Algadi calls a “place-based business” - a business that requires a specific location in order to function. A wind farm requires a windy location, and wind power can’t be replicated in a commercial metropolitan area.
Nobles 2 will be built in close distance to power distribution lines, Algadi added, so use will be efficient and power will get to the people quickly. Wilmont is an ideal location for the project’s developer, Tenaska, to do business in part because land leases are reasonably priced compared to what they might be in a big city.
Landowners will collect lease payments, but the wind turbines themselves will cover only 2 to 3 percent of the land, Tenaska says. The remainder of the land can continue in its current use. In this way, lease agreements are mutually beneficial for the developer and the landowner.
Algadi acknowledged the NIMBY effect - Not In My Back Yard - and explained that while Minnesota’s population may generally believe wind energy is important, they may not necessarily want it to be produced nearby.
“Influential suburbanites don’t want to look out their window and see a wind turbine,” he said.
This, in turn, motivates developers to bring their business to small towns, he added.
“Small towns have a lot to contribute (to wind energy),” Algadi said, noting the area’s available land and abundant wind.
One way Nobles County can prepare for the new wind project is by creating housing options for incoming construction workers, Algadi said. Although Tenaska has committed both verbally and in writing to focus on hiring local labor, even a small number of non-local workers could put pressure on the housing market.
However, Algadi pointed out, construction workers would not need to live in Wilmont itself. Commuting from another town would be reasonable, especially without the congestion of urban traffic.