Older Wind Farms Getting New Life with Project Rebuilds

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  • March 25, 2020

Xcel Energy, a national leader in wind energy for more than a decade, has purchased the Lake Benton II Wind Energy Center in southwest Minnesota. The project, originally built in 1999, has been updated with new technology that will increase the amount of carbon-free renewable energy the project will deliver to Upper Midwest customers.

The project is just one of several that will give new life to older wind farms, increasing their efficiency and locking in the benefits of low-cost wind for customers for decades to come. Two other wind projects in southwest Minnesota – Jeffers and Community Wind North – will soon be rebuilt with new technology and combined into the new Longroad Wind, which recently received Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approval. Xcel Energy has also requested approval to rebuild the Mower project in southeast Minnesota in early 2020. All of these projects will be constructed in late 2020, with the removal and replacement of the original turbines.

 “Rebuilding original wind projects is key to our long-term strategy of reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 while keeping bills low for our customers,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. “Projects like these will give the wind industry new opportunities to deliver low-cost, carbon-free electricity for our customers.”

 About Lake Benton Wind II
Lake Benton Wind, located in Pipestone County, Minn., has been owned and operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, for the last 20 years. The company then led the recent rebuilding and of the project to Lake Benton II. NextEra Energy Resources is the largest wind generator in North America.

 “Wind projects like Lake Benton II are a great example of innovation—leveraging the latest technology to produce energy at lower wind speeds than 20 years ago when the projects were originally built,” said John Di Donato, vice president of development for NextEra Energy Resources. “This approach extends the benefits of renewable energy over a longer period, including payments to landowners, additional jobs and tax revenue to the local community, as well as more clean, cost-effective energy for customers throughout the region.”  

 The project will provide 100 MW of renewable energy for the Upper Midwest. While the project provides the same output as the original wind farm, it produces the energy using fewer wind turbines with greater efficiency—reducing the project’s footprint and maximizing the amount of energy generated at the site. The project features 44 GE wind turbines, which were constructed throughout 2019 by Blattner Energy, based in Avon, Minnesota. More than 200 workers built the project, which hosts about 10 full-time workers for operations and maintenance activities.

 Local governments and landowners will benefit from the project, which will provide about $15 million in property tax payments and $15 million in payments to landowners over the next 20 years. The project is compatible with existing land use, more than 99% of which continues to be used for agricultural production.

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