Minnesota utilities spur wind turbine building boom…in North and South Dakota

Renewable energy advocates in Minnesota claimed that mandating the use of wind for electricity generation would produce a boom in jobs and generate local tax revenue for rural Minnesota, but many of the large industrial wind facilities planned by the state’s major utility companies are in North and South Dakota, sending these jobs and revenues out of state.

Xcel Energy, for example is building or purchasing multiple Dakota projects in addition to the Border Winds (150 MW) and Courtenay (200 MW) wind farms already in operation:

In total, Xcel will build 750 MW of wind in the Dakotas and is planning 700 MW in parts of Minnesota. This means more than half of the planned investment in wind energy, which means more than half the jobs and tax revenue, will leave Minnesota.

Minnesota Power

Almost all of Minnesota Power’s current wind generation is in North Dakota, where the utility owns and operates the massive 496.6-megawatt Bison Wind Energy Center and has power purchase agreements for 98.6 megawatts with the Oliver County I and II wind sites, all near Center, North Dakota.

In fact, the only wind Minnesota Power currently gets within our state is an incredibly small 25 MW wind farm in Iron Mountain, but the utility has plans to purchase electricity from a planned wind farm in Minnesota that will become operational in 2020.

Otter Tail Power

Otter Tail Power is planning to spend approximately $250 million on a 150 MW wind facility south of Edgeley, N.D. In fairness to Otter Tail, they have a significant portion of their service area in North Dakota and South Dakota, so it makes more sense for them to build their than Minnesota’s other utility companies.

Great River Energy

GRE is planning on building 300 MW of new wind in North Dakota and already buys 51 MW from the Ashtabula II Wind Energy Center in eastern North Dakota, under a 30-year power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy Resources.


Utility companies are using your money to build wind farms in North and South Dakota because their wind resources are better there, which means the companies generate more electricity (and tax credits) by building there. This means investing in North and South Dakota wind farms gives them a higher return on investment than building in Minnesota. However, this reality undermines a key argument that is used by renewable energy cheerleaders: economic development for rural Minnesota.

I wonder if the next renewable energy jobs report will detail all the construction jobs Minnesota utilities are creating for North and South Dakota.