Dodge County Wind Project closer to beginning construction of wind farm

Published 6:30 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

A wind farm project in Dodge and Steele counties that stalled a bit in 2019 is back on track.

The Dodge County Wind Project (DCWP) is late in the permit stages with an eye toward construction in the spring of 2023.

“The communities in both Dodge and Steele, as well as Mower County, are really great communities and understand the benefits the projects bring into the communities are increasing,” said Mark Lennonx, project director of renewable development for the DCWP in an update on the project Thursday. “Over a 30-year life span, it will resort to $55 million direct payments to landowners.”

The project, slated to be situated in an area south of Claremont and north of Blooming Prairie and Hayfield, will be made up of 79 wind turbines capable of generating 259 megawatts of energy.

“It’s always easier to think about megawatts in the number of homes,” Lennox said. “We estimate that’s about enough energy to power 70,000 homes.”

The turbines will be larger than existing turbines in the area, standing at a range of 500 to 550 feet tall. These taller turbines will allow more electricity to be generated using fewer towers.

The DCWP, which is owned by NextEra Energy Resources, is a continuation of a project that started in 2014. As the project progressed and NextEra reached the permitting stage in 2019, a hang up in connection costs to the existing grid came in much higher than expected.

“The cost of the energy delivered to customers is higher than we wanted it to be,” Lennox said. “It didn’t make sense, so we went back to the drawing board.”

It was a pivotal moment because NextEra was ready to begin construction in 2020. However, a partnership with Great River Energy allowed for an innovative way to connect to the grid through existing resources.

“We had a lot of confidence moving forward,” Lennox said.

According to the project’s website, it is estimated that over the 30-year life span of the DCWP, there will be $83 million in landowner payments and $39 million generated in tax revenue, as well as generating close to 400 jobs.

To help infuse the project further into these communities, Lennox said that NextEra, through the DCWP, is working to create strong relationships within the communities.

For Lennox, being a part of the community is a necessary step.

“It’s incredibly important,” he said. “One of our driving values is to make sure we are conducting ourselves with integrity in the communities and that they recognize that integrity. Universally, we agree to be safe and effective to bring clean and renewable energy to the community.”

“Once we go through the permitting process and get the appropriate approvals, there will be good paying construction jobs this will bring in,” said Sara Cassidy, communications leader for NextEra. “They’ll be eating in restaurants, sleeping in hotels, shopping in stores.”

Lennox said that NextEra expects roughly a period of 12 to 15 months for review of the project by the state, including public meetings to engage stakeholders. Provided everything goes as planned and the permit is put through, construction will then begin in 2023 and last about six months, according to Lennox.

Both Lennox and Cassidy said there are plenty of opportunities for engagement on the project and encourage people to look into the DCWP.

“We do have a project Facebook page and a website where they can check this out,” Cassidy said. “There’s an opportunity to stay informed through a newsletter. We’re definitely there to take questions. We have a great team in Minneota and we need the support of local communities.”