Lester Prairie group learns about harnessing the wind

Sept. 29, 2008

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Green energy could save the City of Lester Prairie some green of a different kind, a group of residents learned Wednesday.

The group organized by former mayor Eric Angvall, also included Council Member Bob Messer, Park Board Member Troy Feltmann, and local businessman Fred Holasek, who owns Holasek & Sons Greenhouses.

They toured the wind generator on Al Hoff’s farm near Glencoe.

Angvall has been trying to get the city to consider alternative energy for years. Earlier, he focussed on solar energy, but recently, he turned his attention to wind power.

Angvall is a candidate for state representative, and while campaigning, he met Hoff, who is a proponent of wind power.

Hoff bought his wind generator two years ago.

It is a 20 kilowatt generator, and the tower is 125 feet tall. Each blade is 15 feet long, which gives it a diameter of 30 feet.

There is a separate building that houses the meters and other equipment.

Hoff told the group that his generator provides all of the 600 to 800 kilowatts of electricity he needs to run his house each month, and the rest is routed to the electric grid. He is reimbursed at retail prices by McLeod Co-operative Power.

In addition to paying nothing for electricity, Hoff receives a check from the co-op most months. In the best month he has had so far, Hoff received a check for $250.

Hoff said he set up the financing on his tower for a 10-year payback.

He said the person who maintains his wind generator told him that there are about 100 similar generators in the Minnesota – Iowa area, and they run for 25 years.

The towers last much longer, so when the generator needs to be replaced, a new generator can be mounted on the same tower.

The generators are designed with safety features so they pose no danger to line workers who work on the grid. The towers can also be locked down for maintenance, and do not operate at wind speeds greater than 50 mph.

Angvall told the park board that he would like to see the city purchase a wind tower to offset the cost of heating the city swimming pool.

Messer, who is the park board liaison to the city council, brought the matter before the council in July.

“It would provide a positive cash flow, and it would contribute to the park on a monthly basis,” Angvall said.

He suggested that there are a few options for where to put a wind generator in Lester Prairie, including Sunrise Nature Park.

“They (the generators) are not huge or unsightly,” Angvall said.

His vision for the benefits of wind power go beyond Lester Prairie.

“I would like to see the state pay for one wind generator for every school in the state. It would be a good investment, and it would provide income for the schools.

This could also provide Minnesota jobs, Angvall said.

The company that produced Hoff’s wind generator system, Winkelman’s Environmentally Responsible Construction, is a Minnesota company, based in Brainerd, and most components are made in Minnesota, Angvall said.

The initial cost of the systems can be substantial.

Hoff paid $55,000 for his system two years ago. Dramatic increases in steel prices have resulted in higher prices for the systems, particularly the tower structures. A similar system would cost about $70,000 today, Angvall said.

He added that the city should be able to get a grant to help pay for the tower, as a variety of grants are available.

Hoff said when he purchased his wind generator, he received a grant that covered 25 percent of the total cost.

Hoff said he has found local support for wind generators.

“McLeod County is behind this,” Hoff said, adding that he had no problem getting a conditional use permit through the planning and zoning commission.

He also said McLeod Co-operative Power was easy to work with when he purchased his system.

Angvall said he would like to see the city council approve the $500 cost of a study to determine what return the city could expect to receive if it were to purchase a wind generator.

“Every watt that is produced here is one less that needs to be produced by a coal or nuclear power plant,” Angvall said.

The city council said it would like to hear a presentation from a company salesman before taking any action on the proposal.

More information about the systems is available at: www.ecowerc.com

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