Crowd hears about wind energy options

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 7, 2003

The third and final wind energy informational meeting attracted the largest crowd Saturday in Austin.

More than 100 people attended a two-hour session in the Ellis Middle School auditorium.

A large number of the curious were people from western Minnesota, where wind energy is a reality and turbines dot the landscape.

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However, a number of interested Mower Countians, particularly farmers and other landowners from the Dexter, Elkton, Grand Meadow and Adams area, were in attendance. That's where two companies are conducting tests to determine the feasibility of wind turbines.

The Extension Service's Gary Wyant served as master of ceremonies and welcomed the audience.

"Interest in renewable energy sources is really taking hold in the United States today," Wyant said.

Wyant introduced State Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin. Sparks said he supports efforts to promote renewable energy sources, such as wind energy.

He also said he wants the legislature's new Energy Bill to "go farther" to support those efforts with "mandates and not just goals."

John Dunlop, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association, described how wind energy has become a force -- no pun intended -- in the energy world.

With more than 400 wind turbines already up and working in southwest Minnesota, Dunlop expects more to come and soon.

Why wind energy's popularity?

"We have been cost-effective for centuries," Dunlop said, recalling how the Dutch used wind to grind grain and how American immigrants used wind to pump water on the prairie as well as the many individual wind turbines that provide off-grid electricity to homes, farms and ranches.

Today, Dunlop said wind energy is asserting itself as a viable renewable energy source in California and Texas, but also Iowa and Minnesota, the leaders in the industry.

Lisa Daniels of Windustry said wind energy took off in western Minnesota in 1994. She said wind is a legitimate alternative as a domestic energy resource.

While southwestern Minnesota is the state's leader in developing wind energy, Daniels said it is a "developable energy project" in southeastern Minnesota.

Also speaking Saturday was Dan Juhl, the "guru of wind energy" in Minnesota.

With 17 wind turbines on his farm near Woodstock and Pipestone, Juhl has been involved in the state's wind energy projects since 1999.

Juhl encouraged local ownerships and said the projects are attractive for local bank financing.

Like the other two informational meetings, Saturday's event was sponsored by the Windustry/Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, University of Minnesota Extension Service, Rural Minnesota Energy Task Force and Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at