Small-scale wind project aims to be the model for rural expansion in Kandiyohi County

ATWATER -- Wind power just made the step from the talking stage in Kandiyohi County to what Dan Tepfer called the "kicking the tire stage.'' Tepfer, of Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, was on hand Wednesday to oversee the connection of the third smal...

ATWATER -- Wind power just made the step from the talking stage in Kandiyohi County to what Dan Tepfer called the "kicking the tire stage.''

Tepfer, of Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, was on hand Wednesday to oversee the connection of the third small-scale wind generation system to the power cooperative's electric distribution system.

Diamond Wind Energy LLC, a company created by Atwater banker Bob Meyerson, will be tapping the winds south of Diamond Lake to generate electricity.

The company contracted with Winkelman's Environmentally Responsible Construction, Brainerd, to erect a 40-kilowatt Jacobs wind turbine on a hill about 1½ miles south of Diamond Lake.

A three-legged, trestle tower holds the turbine and its three 15-foot blades some 120 feet above the hill that itself stands 100 feet higher than the waters of Diamond Lake.


This windy hilltop is owned by Leroy and Barb Everson, who had used it as pasture land until it was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program several years ago.

The Eversons and their son Troy watched as the developers joined to flip the switch this week.

Leroy Everson said his family dismantled the old-fashioned windmill that once pumped water from a well on the nearby farm site in the late 1940s.

"No,'' he said, when asked if he ever expected a wind turbine to again tap the winds on the farm.

Yet increasingly, turbines manufactured by the Jacobs company -- which began making windmills some 75 years ago -- are making a comeback on rural landscapes all over the Midwest, according to David Winkelman of Winkelman's Environmentally Responsible Construction. He said there are now more than 140 Jacobs wind turbines just like this one spinning in the Midwest.

"There's free fuel up there blowing in the wind,'' he said.

Bob Meyerson needed only his legs to find it. An avid runner, Meyerson said he has made many trips up the hill as part of his regular workouts. The hard climb was almost invariably rewarded with a cooling breeze.

Meyerson said his interest in developing a wind turbine system owes to his appreciation for renewable energy and desire to promote our country's energy independence.


Yet his primary motivation is much like that which once led some pioneering farmers to plant the first varieties of hybrid seed corn in the glacial till of the county. Like many, Meyerson said he believes the wind represents "another crop'' for farmers to harvest.

Meyerson said he hopes this project serves as a model for how the wind can be utilized for economic development in the rural area. He is leasing the land for the wind turbine from the Eversons. The lease provides them with a share of the earnings based on the kilowatts created by the wind here.

The project will also tell us how much wind is available here. Meyerson said it is his goal to eventually develop a Web site that would show real-time generation at the site.

He said he would like to see this and other vantage points in the county sprout wind turbines to generate pollution-free electricity while supporting the farm economy. Meyerson, who has been a banker since 1977, said he has long been interested in finding economic opportunities for the family farms that are so important to small town banks.

Winkelman said state law allows the owners of wind turbines of 40 kilowatts or less to feed their power directly into a utility system. They are compensated at the average retail rate the utility charges for its power.

Larger wind systems negotiate the sale of their electricity, and usually receive the wholesale price. There are a variety of tax and other incentives to assist both large and smaller-scale wind projects.

Most small-scale projects have a payback period of about 10 years, according to Winkelman. A turnkey project like this one requires an investment of just over $50,000, according to information from Winkelman's Environmentally Responsible Construction.

In terms of the Kandiyohi Power Cooperative's electric distribution system, the Diamond Wind Energy turbine provides little more than a trickle of juice.


If the winds prove as favorable as hoped at this site, it will generate annually an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. The average customer on the cooperative's network, which includes many working farms, uses 1,200 to 1,300 kilowatt-hours per month, according to Tepfer.

He and Dave Opsahl of the Willmar Municipal Utilities attended this week's inauguration of the county's newest power generator to show the support by the two utilities for local, renewable energy development. "Things are starting to happen,'' said Tepfer.

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