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Third time's a charm for wind-solar project in Otter Tail County

Wind turbines at work southwest of Rollag. Dave Wallis / The Forum

After two unsuccessful tries, it's full steam ahead for a solar-wind hybrid project in Otter Tail County.

Juhl Energy will break ground this month in Trondhjem Township

on what it called one of the first commercially integrated solar-wind hybrid power generation projects in the U.S.

The project will use a single General Electric wind turbine, supported by .5 megawatt of photovoltaic solar panels. The wind and solar are combined through GE's Wind Integrated Solar Energy technology platform.

Lake Region Electric Cooperative of Pelican Rapids will purchase the electric output of the project, incurring no debt and with little risk in the construction or operation of the project.

Juhl Energy will finance construct, operate, and maintain the facility.

After two earlier unsuccessful siting attempts — including one that received major blowback from Pelican Lake residents concerned about the wind tower — a farmer and electric co-op member offered his property as a less controversial site for the hybrid project and its wind turbine.

All decisions regarding the siting of the project and the purchase of the output were made locally by local governing bodies and the cooperative, with the input from the landowner and neighbors, according to Tim Thompson, CEO of Lake Region Electric Cooperative.

Energy produced will be distributed over local co-op power lines from a

single rural substation, and will go to Lake Region members.

"By entering into this (energy purchase agreement) Lake Region Electric Cooperative doesn't incur ownership or any debt for the project," said Charles Kvare, board chair of Lake Region Electric Cooperative.

The energy, transmission and capacity cost savings from the project will help provide rate stability for the entire cooperative membership, Thompson said.

"There's a lot of value here, Lake Region Electric members are going to

be able to purchase low-cost energy from a local resource," he added. "The wind—solar hybrid project will be interconnected to our own distribution system, and all of the energy produced will be consumed locally."

The project will be owned by a subsidiary of Juhl Energy that includes a

number of investors from across Minnesota and the Midwest. The construction general contractor is Faith Technologies, a Wisconsin-based firm that has experience working on clean energy projects. The project's renewable energy certificates are being sold separately to a third party helping to sponsor the project.

"Most energy experts agree that distributed generation will play a major role in the implementation of renewable energy in the U.S. electrical market in the years to come," said Dan Juhl, chairman of Juhl Energy. "Juhl

Energy's package design, with the GE hybrid technology, can economically

blend clean, renewable energy into the grid at lower cost, plus add reliability to the system."

The project is expected to be completed next month.