Council to discuss wind power contract

Published 7:02 pm Saturday, September 17, 2011

Austin City Council members will discuss a wind farm energy contract between Austin Utilities and PNE Wind USA, Inc. Monday evening at a council work session.

Andre de Rosa, director of power marketing for PNE Wind, said the discussion will focus on the business side of the potential wind farm.

“We want to work with (Austin Utilities) to work with them on how the power flows,” de Rosa said. “This is about whether or not we can work with your utility and pay them to help us flow the power out of the area.”

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Although plans for a wind farm are not set in stone, PNE Wind officials are hoping to construct a small farm 14 miles north of Austin’s city limits. De Rosa said the farm would consist of about 12 turbines and could offer a positive economic impact on the town.

“The state of Minnesota has a specific tax amount it levies on wind farms,” de Rosa said. “That is money that is going to go into coffers of the state and the county. Everyone will get a little taste of that money.”

He said schools could benefit the most from taxes generated by the wind farm. More tax revenue would be flowing into the county and state, but since the revenue wouldn’t be in the form of property tax it wouldn’t come with increased enrollment.

“We put more revenues to the schools without adding more students,” he said.

According to de Rosa, the wind farm would also create jobs. More than 200 construction workers would be needed to build the farm and maintenance crews would be necessary for upkeep after the turbines are up and running.

Austin Utilities General Manager Mark Nibaur said Monday’s conversation will be about partnering with PNE Wind to get their power on the “electric grid.”

“The overall concept is for Austin Utilities assisting and supporting the process of moving this power to the grid,” Nibaur said. “We’re not owning the wind farm, we’re just helping this developer move their power.”

Council members will discuss the agreement Monday night at a work session immediately following the regular council meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m.

At the work session, the City Council will also be continuing 2012 budget talks and discussing a potential dog park location.