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New wind turbine has Olivia buzzing

A worker with Henkels & McCoy, of Blue Bell, Pa., makes adjustments Wednesday as the three rotor blades on Olivia's newly erected wind turbine are attached. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

OLIVIA -- It's a late, muddy and vexing harvest and the conference champion BOLD football Warriors are marching into the playoffs.

And yet, the topic that is getting talked up the most in Olivia this week is the newly erected wind turbine.

Mayor Bill Miller and City Administrator Daniel Hoffman stopped by Wednesday to see the final steps in the process.

Both expressed their surprise at just how much attention the turbine has generated in the community.

It's that way elsewhere too, according to Dave Boyles of Avant Energy in Minneapolis. His company is overseeing the Hometown Wind Power project that is erecting identical turbines in each of the 11 communities that comprise the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, as well as a 12th turbine at the organization's energy plant near Faribault.

Boyles said the turbines represent a step by the Municipal Power Agency communities to meet a government requirement that utilities provide 12 percent of their electric sales from renewable energy sources by 2012.

The wind turbines were purchased from a California wind energy farm, refurbished and are now in the process of being erected in the member communities. Boyle said he believes Olivia's tower was the eighth to go up.

These are not the large, utility-scale turbines such as those recently erected in Willmar. The Minnesota Municipal Power Agency turbine in Olivia is 80 feet tall at the hub, and has three 35-foot blades giving it a maximum height of 115 feet.

Yet the turbine, located next to the city's public works building north of U.S. Highway 212, just can't be missed.

It has a capacity of 160 kilowatts. The power will be fed directly into the city's own electrical distribution system.

The Olivia turbine will be one of the harder working of the 12 turbines going up. Olivia offers a greater wind resource than found in many other Municipal Power Agency communities, according to Boyles. The other communities include Anoka, Arlington, Brownton, Buffalo, Chaska, East Grand Forks, Le Sueur, North St. Paul, Shakopee and Winthrop.

A crew with Henkels & McCoy, of Blue Bell, Pa., started erecting the Olivia tower on Monday and had the work completed by noon Wednesday, despite being forced to suspend work early on Tuesday due to high winds.

It will likely be a couple of weeks before the turbine starts lighting houses in Olivia, however. The city is waiting for an electric transformer to arrive and be wired to the turbine.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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