Wind power in Minnesota just scored a major victory as a new electricity transmission line designed to carry wind energy from the Buffalo Ridge to the metro area was approved by utility regulators at the Public Utility Commission (PUC).St. Paul, Minnesota – February 6, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] The powerline-proposed by Xcel Energy-was approved with conditions and is projected to be in service in 2006. One condition placed on the powerline approval is that a total of 825 megawatts (MW) of wind power must be built in the same timeframe as the line. The Department of Commerce joined with environmentalists to require that wind turbines be built quickly to fill the proposed powerline. The PUC approved that condition on a 4-1 vote. “Xcel has consistently argued that the purpose of this powerline is to transmit wind energy,” said Beth Soholt, director of Wind on the Wires. “The conditions that the PUC approved require Xcel to step up its wind energy purchases. We applaud the PUC for making the choice for more Renewable Energy and clean air.” Soholt argued the case before the Commission on the behalf of the Izaak Walton League of America, Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ME3) and the American Wind Energy Association. The debate centered on whether the timeline for building the powerline and building the wind turbines should match up. “The reality is that parties don’t trust Xcel to do what they said they would do,” said Commissioner Phyllis A Reha, who helped craft the successful compromise. The result of the decision is that about 365 MW of additional wind power will be built to serve Minnesota within four years. This equals between 250 and 400 modern utility-sized wind turbines, capable of providing the annual energy needs of more than 150,000 Minnesota homes. Xcel currently has 460 MW of wind power installed or under contract. The decision dramatically speeds up wind development in Minnesota. On a separate condition, also approved by a 4-1 vote, the PUC ordered Xcel to purchase up to 60 MW of the total from wind developments owned locally by farmers, communities and small businesses in southwest Minnesota. Nobles County Commissioner David Benson, chair of the Rural Minnesota Energy Task Force, and George Crocker of the North American Water Office successfully persuaded the PUC to adopt this second condition. Crocker declared it an important step in the right direction for farmers who want to participate in the economic opportunity of wind power. “This will be welcome news to the 250 farmers who met in Adrian, Minnesota this month to talk about owning their own wind turbines, and to the scores of Minnesota communities struggling to diversify rural economies,” said Commissioner Benson.