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Iberdola Hosts Wind Farm Tour at Elm Creek II

By Kelley Welf on July 31, 2013

It was a dark and stormy start to our trip to Jackson, Minn., for a tour of Iberdrola Renewables’ Elm Creek II wind farm. As we traveled to the southwest corner of the state, the weather cleared and we enjoyed a warm, windy summer day in Minnesota. 

A group of 26 wind energy advocates representing such groups as Sierra Club, Fresh Energy, the Clean Energy & Jobs campaign, Conservation Minnesota, Isaak Walton League, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Windustry, and Environment Minnesota attended the tour.  Iberdrola’s Business Developer Adam Sokolski, led the tour with Operations Manager Matt Spies.  Construction questions were answered by Cody Meyer of Mortenson Construction, the company hired to build this project.  The group also benefited from remarks by Neal Von Ohlen, the lead landowner representing the Elm Creek II Landowner Association. 

Neal and Adam explained the unique landowner model they have with the Elm Creek II project and how successful it has been for everyone involved. There are approximately 60 landowners included in the project, representing 12,000 acres of land.  Under the terms of their agreement, regardless of whether a participating landowner gets a turbine on their project or not, each landowner receives a portion of the profits from the farm.  “This makes everyone happy,” Neal said.  Iberdrola has replicated this landowner model in various forms on several other projects as well, with great success.  “The partnership we have with the landowners in Jackson and Martin County provides a win-win-win for the landowners, the community and our company,” said Adam Sokolski.

The Elm Creek II project has been operational for nearly three years now. When asked if any landowners have experienced any of the negative health effects that have been the cause for concern in several states, Neal stated unequivocally that there have been none.

At the turbine, the visitors got to see the inside of the turbine, and a demonstration of the climb-assist mechanism that helps technicians more easily climb the more than 200 steps to the top.  The ascent usually takes a technician about 6-7 minutes, but with the climb-assist, they can reach the top in about 1 – 1½ minutes.  The feature also reduces stress to their knees.

On the return trip, Cody Meyers gave some fascinating construction statistics from the project.  He shared a story about a restaurant on the brink of closing that is now considering expanding due to the influx of workers from wind development. Minnesota construction company Mortenson said it spent $10 million within a 50 mile radius of a Minnesota wind project on equipment rentals, concrete, aggregate resources, and other services.

Other interesting facts include:

  • Nearly 500 cubic yards of concrete are used for each turbine.  Combined, 30,000 yards of concrete were used for this project – enough to lay 215 miles of standard city sidewalk.  
  • The Elm Creek II project uses Mitsubishi 2.4 MW turbines.  The nacelle weighs the equivalent of 74 Toyota Camrys, or 237,000 pounds.  
  • Mortenson estimated that in a nearby project, they injected $500,000 into the local community in the form of housing and rent/living expenses for their workers.  
  • And, using local businesses within 50 miles of the project for such things as aggregate, renting equipment, concrete, etc., added another $10 million to the economy.  

Other local contractors used as projects are being built include:

  • Concrete haulers
  • Gravel and aggregate suppliers
  • Design for the Operations & Management structure
  • Drain tile contractors to repair the 800 – 900 drain tiles damaged during trenching.  This kept two local drain tile contractors busy for nearly two years.
  • Catering for safety lunches
  • On-site toilets
  • Water

Wind on the Wires plans to coordinate similar tours this fall for legislators on both sides of the aisle. “Events like this are a great opportunity to show policy makers and other allies what a wind farm looks like, how it operates, and the significant benefits they can bring to rural communities.” said Regional Policy Manager Joe Sullivan.

See photos from this tour here.

Tags:  minnesota, iberdrola, sokolski, mortenson
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