“There are over a dozen different programs relating to wind energy in Minnesota. The attitude of the State Legislature has really been quite positive,” said Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, at a recent meeting in Appleton. Kubly noted that some Minnesota wind incentives are geared for agriculture, some for schools, local government and hospitals, some for commercial and industrial use.

“There are enough programs now available so virtually anyone could find some assistance,” Kubly said, suggesting that incentives for wind projects up to about 2 megawatts seem to be the better programs involving state assistance.

For farmers looking at 20 kW systems, there is the Agricultural Improvement Loan Program administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture through the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority. These loans are limited to wind-energy systems with a maximum capacity of 1 megawatt, with RFA participation limited to 45 percent of the principal amount of the loan, or $200,000, whichever is less.

To qualify, the borrower must be a Minnesota resident, a Minnesota domestic family-farm corporation or a family-farm partnership. The borrower must be the principal operator of the farm and may not have a total net worth exceeding $373,000 (as of 2006, indexed for inflation). In order to receive payments from this loan program, a facility must be built by Jan. 1.

Another concession to the development of wind energy is the Property Tax Exemption provision. All real and personal property of a wind energy system is exempt from property tax. However, the land on which a wind system is located is taxable. But in lieu of a property tax on wind energy systems, a production tax was implemented in 2002. Systems greater than 12 MW are taxed at a rate of 0.12 cents/kWh with progressively less tax for smaller systems. Wind systems under 0.24 MW are exempt from the production tax.

Kubly, whose Senate district extends from Renville County to the South Dakota border, said, “wind energy is one of the more talked about issues in my Senate district, especially as you head west toward the Buffalo Ridge area. For counties bordering South Dakota, wind energy is probably the No. 1 issue.”

He mentioned a second turbine being planned at Morris to further assist a research program dealing with wind to hydrogen to anhydrous ammonia, plus supply an even bigger portion of the electrical needs of the University of Minnesota campus there. The 1.65 MW turbine erected two years ago currently provides about 60 percent of the electrical needs of the campus. Kubly also mentioned that the UMM was able to lower tuition costs $1,000 per student because of their significant reduction in energy costs thanks to that big turbine.

Speaking at the same Appleton meeting, State Rep. Aaron Peterson, DFL-Appleton, viewed ownership of wind projects becoming a big issue, which is why he introduced legislation to support wind projects much the same way the state encouraged the ethanol industry.

He also pointed to the corporate world, which can take advantage of federal laws, which provide production tax credits for wind power, but these credits only apply toward passive income. The problem with passive income is that it favors big investors such as Deere Finance, or wealthy individuals. As an example, over 80 percent of the current turbines operational on Buffalo Ridge are owned by a major Florida electrical utility.

Even the strong euro compared to the U.S. dollar is working against big wind projects in America. Peterson pointed out that world manufacturers of turbines for “big wind” are making wind projects in China and Europe more appealing than U.S. projects.