By Tom Larson
University of Minnesota, Morris officials have been trying for some time to get a second wind turbine up in town.
Now, it's very possible there will be three, if plans progress as hoped.
Lowell Rasmussen, UMM Vice Chancellor of Finance and Facilities, said a plan to help finance a wind turbine near Detroit Lakes that would be co-owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has fallen through.
Now, the university is planning to build a second tower near one operating at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, and erect a third turbine on the north edge of the UMM campus. The Mille Lacs Band would remain a co-owner but would not receive power from the turbine.
"This is different from what we were planning a year ago," Rasmussen said.
UMM officials are meeting with City of Morris Planning Commission members about the projects, but Rasmussen said the plans are "very tentative."
The university also intends to notify adjacent property owners about the plans and could schedule public meetings if the projects continue moving forward, he said.
The turbines are part of the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program, which is managed by the Internal Revenue Service. Under CREB, power utilities and government agencies can issue tax-free, zero interest bonds for renewable energy projects.
UMM's CREBs were to be used, in part for the Mille Lacs Band project, but research showed it would be a cost-prohibitive plan, with no ready access to get the turbine's electricity on a power grid, Rasmussen said.
"We're not going to get one located there," he said of the Detroit Lakes site.
UMM officials also are waiting on a study of the impact of three local turbines on Otter Tail Power Company. Currently, UMM's one turbine supplies about half the energy for the university campus. Three turbines would surpass UMM's needs and it would need to get the excess to a power grid, Rasmussen said.
"It would definitely put us in the category of producing more energy than we can use," he said. "We're not sure what the impact of that would be on (Otter Tail's) grid."
Otter Tail is studying the situation and the work could take several months, Rasmussen said.
The earliest the projects could be underway is January, "if everything falls into place," he said.