PRINCETON, Minn. (WCCO) — For generations of farmers, having a wind mill was a dependable way to pump water for their livestock. Now it’s rare to drive Minnesota’s rural roads and see the old steel structures still turning in the breeze.

But there’s a good chance what you will see instead is a taller structure spinning with three blades. On the Burke family farm near Princeton, two identical 120-foot-tall wind turbines are harvesting wind and turning it into electricity.

“Yea, it’s nice,” Carolyn Burke said.

For the past five years, Carolyn and Tony Burke have seen their monthly electric bill all but disappear. That’s because the two 10-kilowatt turbines produce more electricity than the family can use. What they don’t consume is sent down the distribution lines and purchased by their power cooperative.

“I can’t even remember now when we ever had an electric bill,” Carolyn said. “Plus we get money in return.”

The Burkes are among a growing number of rural Minnesotans who are making a sizable investment by installing wind turbines on their properties. It’s a way to help the environment by reducing carbon emissions and reducing expense in their budgets.

“It gives people confidence in the technology,” said Charles Grell, a Cold Spring wind turbine developer.

Grell’s company, Gone 2 Green, is helping rural homeowners and farmers install their own wind turbines using 120-foot and 140-foot towers.

Grell said he isn’t surprised by a Department of Energy report that listed Minnesota as the nation’s second largest generator of wind power. According to the DOE report, Minnesota can generate 17 percent of its electricity from the wind.

“Long term, these are a wonderful example of how you generate power back on the farm and rural areas where we produce it,” he said.

Thanks to grants by Xcel Energy, Grell’s company hopes to build 50 more of their wind turbines for property owners in Stearns, Benton and Meeker counties.

It’s a way to help small operators get a piece of a growing wind power pie.

“This is simple technology but it works and people of Minnesota are finding that out,” Grell said.


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