Vote scheduled for potential wind farm

Published 11:21 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Austin Utilities and PNE Wind USA, Inc. officials are waiting to see where the wind takes them.

City Council members discussed a wind farm energy contract between the two entities Monday night at a work session, and a vote is scheduled for an Oct. 3 council meeting.

The energy contract would allow Austin Utilities to help PNE Wind flow energy from the wind farm into the “electrical grid,” according to Austin Utilities General Manager Mark Nibaur.

Although plans for a wind farm are not official, PNE Wind officials are hoping to construct a small farm 14 miles north of Austin’s city limits. Andre de Rosa, director of power marketing at PNE Wind, said the farm would consist of about 12 turbines and could offer a positive economic impact on the town. De Rosa said the state, county and city could see a return of more than $3 million in tax revenue from such a wind farm.

“The state of Minnesota has a specific tax amount it levies on wind farms,” de Rosa previously 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.”

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. PNE Wind officials are projecting the creation of at least eight full-time, well-paying jobs.

The project could benefit Austin Utilities financially, too. De Rosa said there are two utility companies looking to buy the power, and PNE Wind would likely pay Austin Utilities on an annual basis for their involvement in the farm.

The Austin Utilities Board is scheduled to vote on the wind energy contract Sept. 26. If it passes there, City Council will vote to approve the contract on Oct. 3.