Wind Energy Production Tax brings $27.9 million to Worthington and surrounding counties

Source: By Worthing Minnesota Daily Globe • Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WORTHINGTON — Wind development has grown into a significant industry for the Nobles and Jackson County area. Revenue from the Wind Energy Production Tax this year was already 10 times higher than it was a decade earlier.

Over that same period, more than $27.9 million has been paid to counties, townships and schools in the Nobles County and Jackson County area, including $8.9 million to those units in Nobles and Jackson counties alone.

“Any chance we have to add additional income into our community will be welcome, and that amount is substantial,” said Abraham Algadi, director of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. “There’s an incredible opportunity for job creation not just in research and development, but also in manufacturing, installation and maintenance.”

Many of the workers filling those new jobs are being trained at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby. Canby offers an online certificate, a one-year diploma and a two-year diploma and works with local energy companies to provide hands-on experience for students in each program.

Tim Hansen, an instructor at Minnesota West, said demand for jobs in the industry has never been higher.

“Just this morning I got an email asking me for employees,” he said. “I have more job openings coming across my desk than I have students to fill them.”

New wind development has brought significant revenue into area communities, helped create new jobs and, increasingly, put downward pressure on energy prices.

“Xcel has brought wind online with prices better than natural gas,” Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke said in remarks this past fall at the Minnesota Utility Investors annual meeting.

In fact, Iowa has developed much more wind than Minnesota — 5,176 megawatts in Iowa compared to 3,035 megawatts in Minnesota, according to the American Wind Energy Association; and on average Iowan customers pay nearly 20 percent less on their electric bills, 7.64 cents/kilowatt hour vs. 9.41 cents/kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association. By contrast, Wisconsin produces just a few hundred megawatts of wind energy and has electricity rates 11 percent higher than Minnesota.

This year is likely to include several key milestones for the Wind Energy Production Tax. Not only will total payments to local units eclipse $50 million, but payments in 2015 alone will exceed $10 million for the first time. Hansen said he believes this growth is promising for the industry in general and this region in particular.

“Wind energy is a great asset for our state, specifically in southwestern Minnesota,” Hansen explained. “And the potential for growth in the wind industry is huge.”