Residents in Anoka and 10 other cities across the state could soon be looking up to the whipping blades of a wind turbine towering over their communities.
The turbines are part of a project by the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (MMPA), an electricity cooperative made up of metro and outstate cities that hopes to bring wind power off large turbine farms in rural areas and into homes.
While plans for the turbines are in the early stages, the project's leaders are beginning to approach the member cities to determine appropriate sites. Around the end of the summer, Anoka, Arlington, Brownton, Buffalo, Chaska, East Grand Forks, Le Sueur, North St. Paul, Olivia, Shakopee and Winthrop could begin discussing the project in greater detail.
In Anoka, city officials have begun drafting an ordinance for wind turbine placement.
The ordinance would allow for a wind turbine to be built on a city-owned property near 11th Avenue and Grant Street. The member cities will be responsible for recommending suitable locations on public property. The cost of the turbines will be covered by federal grants secured by the MMPA.
"Our project is sort of unique because, instead of having a construction company build 40 towers in a farm field, each member city will have a turbine in town," said Dan Voss, Anoka's electric utility director.
Avant Energy, the company that handles the technical components for MMPA projects, is looking for turbines that are around 150 feet tall and have between a 100- to 300-kilowatt capacity. They will likely be comparable to the 160-foot-tall wind turbine at the Great River Energy headquarters in Maple Grove.
"These won't be as big as some of the ones you see on wind farms," said project manager Dave Boyles. "They will be more appropriately sized to the community."
The turbines aren't meant to provide a large amount of each city's electric load either. Amounts will vary, but Boyles estimated that about 1 percent of a city's total load will be supplied by the wind power.
"It's showing a commitment on the part of MMPA and the community that they really do want to build a green power solution," Boyles said.
Louis Van Hout, utilities manager for the Shakopee Public Utilities Commission, said building wind turbines in each community will help officials become more familiar with other ways to access wind power as they look toward reaching state-mandated goals for renewable energy. By 2012, 10 percent of MMPA's energy must come from renewable sources, and by 2025, 25 percent.
"It's a visual symbol of conservation efforts and green power," Van Hout said. "This brings it close to home as opposed to a theoretical windmill farm that may be several hundred miles away."
While MMPA already purchases wind power from wind farms, transmitting the electricity over power lines that already operate at capacity has been an issue. Boyles said officials will look for sites for the turbines that are close to the existing electrical distribution system in each city, so the power generated won't have to travel far to reach consumers.
Some of the cities are considering sites near schools or other education facilities, in order to provide a learning experience for students.
"I think people will be interested in it and watching it spin and wondering why it's not spinning when there's no wind," Voss said.
Lora Pabst • 612-673-4628