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Letter: Windmill boondoggle

Two windmills north of Willmar cost $10 million, hopefully capable of generating 3 percent of the total electricity needed in Willmar.

Spending public money requires comparing the cost of the proposed project with alternatives. A new gas-fired electric power plant, Deer Creek Station, currently under construction in the Brookings, S.D., area, will cost approximately $405 million. Capable of supplying power for around 300,000 homes, current rates should generate a profit for the stockholders, and employ 30 full-time employees.

Sixty-six windmills would be needed to generate all of Willmar's electricity at a total cost of $330 million. Economies of scale could reduce that cost some.

Total energy use according to Municipal Utilities records, for 2009, was 341,298 megawatt-hours. This consists of 7,962 residential meters and 1,209 business meters. That would be the equivalent of approximately 40,150 homes, as each home uses 8.5 megawatt-hours.

For comparison, the Deer Creek Station at which a $405 million investment will generate for 300,000 homes, $2.49 billion would be required for windmills to do the same.

That's over six times the investment. Just the interest on that kind of money, paid to the likes of the Chinese, would strangle any entity. In addition, those windmills have only a 15- to 20-year expected life, and since wind is not always available, having a dependable source of electricity in place is required.

This is waste at the highest level. Anyone, whether they be elected officials or hired employees, that would vote for that kind of spending should be removed from their position immediately. Government money is not free.

In the case of our local situation, the Willmar City Council, including the mayor, has oversight of Willmar Municipal Utilities, and thus must accept responsibility for decisions such as this. Hiding behind a state mandate, which doesn't take full effect until 2025, cannot be an excuse. Starting with our U.S. and Minnesota representatives, we definitely need to clean house on Nov. 2.

Palmer Norling