Planned wind farm could make history in Minnesota

Source: by Dan Rafter, REJournals.Com • Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013

Minnesota will soon witness a technology first once a new five-turbine wind farm sprouts from land in Renville County, Minn., about 90 miles west of the Twin Cities.

The farm, developed by Emerald H2 and Norfolk Wind Energy, will be the largest hydrogen-production facility in the United States powered by wind energy. The plan is to build its turbines just south of the city of Bird Island.

Smaller wind farms have produced hydrogen in both the United States and Europe. The Emerald H2 farm, though, will power a 500,000-kilogram hydrogen project. The project will be a proving ground of sorts, demonstrating whether wind-produced electricity can produce hydrogen on a large scale in a cost-effective manner.

“We’ve been developing this project for three years now,” said Patrick Pelstring, president and chief executive officer of Minneapolis-based National Renewable Solutions, one of the companies — Millennium Reign Energy was the other — that formed Emerald H2. “Everything is in place now. It is ready to move forward.”

Emerald H2′s wind farm will be located within a community wind farm currently under development by Norfolk Wind Energy in Renville County. Norfolk Wind Energy is a wind project company with plans to generate 70 to 100 megawatts of wind energy in Renville County each year.

Once built, Emerald H2′s wind farm will produce 10 megawatts of wind energy and 500,000 kilograms of hydrogen each year. Pelstring said that Emerald will sell the electricity that the farm generates and the hydrogen that it produces to such utility and hydrogen buyers as regional manufacturers and refining operations.

Pelstring said that Renville County made sense for the project thanks to its location and its consistently strong wind speeds.

The location is especially important. Pelstring said that a variety of potential customers are located near the county, including those in the Twin Cities area. Pelstring said that Emerald H2 can sell hydrogen within a general radius of about 150 miles.

Emerald H2 officials are now talking with potential investors. Pelstring said that if all goes well, construction on the wind turbines and 4,500-square-foot hydrogen production facility should begin late this fall. He said that the farm should go into operation around late spring or early summer of next year.

“This project will make wind energy more efficient,” Pelstring said. “We’ll run the wind farm during the daytime hours. During the evening, we’ll electrolyze hydrogen. That solves the problem that so many people have with wind’s intermittent nature. It too often doesn’t blow when you need it for power. With this solution, though, we will be producing another form of energy on site. That will make our wind farm a more efficient one.”