WILMONT — With construction officially under way on a new 250-megawatt wind farm in northern Nobles County, the Nobles 2 Power Partners — comprised of affiliates Tenaska and Allete — has announced the creation of a community fund into which the partners will pay $300,000 over a 20-year period.
The announcement was made Monday evening during a picnic with landowners in the Wilmont city park. Its establishment will coincide with the completion of the project in 2020, with the first $15,000 payment made to the fund in 2021.
“The money will be used to support initiatives that will benefit the communities in the project area — the townships of Bloom, Larkin, Lismore, Leota, Summit Lake and Wilmont,” announced Scott Seier, vice president of strategic development and acquisitions for Tenaska. “Details on how organizations can apply for funds will be publicized once that first payment is made.”
Monday’s picnic with landowners was in conjunction with American Wind Week, a week set aside to celebrate the benefits of wind power, Seier said.
The true celebration for landowners, though, is that they are going to start seeing activity in the neighborhood after a lengthy planning and development process.
“This is a milestone that we’ve all been waiting for,” Seier said. “We’re going beyond the paperwork, and we’re going to see some real work going on in the field.”
Tenaska Project Manager Kevin Shouse, who will oversee construction activities for Nobles 2, said work this month and through late November will include improvements to public roads and temporary intersection road modifications; installation of turbine access roads, turbine foundations and underground collection lines; and foundation construction for the collection substation, as well as operations and maintenance building.
There will be limited work from Thanksgiving through March 2020. Turbine delivery and erection will then begin as early as May.
“All turbines will be placed in service by September 2020,” Shouse said, noting that the wind farm will be in operation shortly thereafter, with restoration work to continue late into the year.
“A lot will be happening over the next 15 months,” he said. “We want to thank you in advance for your patience.”
The Nobles 2 Wind project carries an estimated price tag of $350 to $400 million, and will generate more than $1.1 million in new tax revenue each year once it’s in operation.
“The project is going to diversify land use and provide a new income stream to landowners through lease payments,” Seier said.
During peak construction, the project will create up to 230 jobs, with up to 15 full-time jobs created for the wind farm’s operation. Mortenson Construction is the general contractor for the project.
The power generated by the Vestas wind turbines will be used by Duluth-based Minnesota Power, a division of Allete.
Minnesota Power serves 144,000 customers in northeast Minnesota, according to Julie Pierce, vice president of strategy and planning with Allete.
“The power is going to help produce … millions of iron ore pellets and pieces of paper that are going to help to drive steel — making some of the cleanest steel in the United States,” Pierce told attendees. “That steel comes full circle and goes into the trucks, the pick-up trucks, the combines and vehicles you use to help keep your farming sustainable and going right here in this community.”
With Allete’s partnership in Nobles 2 Wind, Minnesota Power will have reached more than 50% renewable energy for its customers — outpacing state goals, mandates and other energy providers in Minnesota, she said.