Blade signing begins MP&W renewable era

Muscatine Power and Water is diversifying its energy portfolio by adding wind power this fall, and on September 21, Muscatine officials took part in a traditional blade signing ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the utility’s first foray into large-scale renewable energy production. Leaders from MP&W and the wind farm’s project development and investment companies were at the site in Jackson County, MN, for the signing.

“Moving forward with alternative energy production is a historic milestone for Muscatine,” said Sal LoBianco, General Manager, “and just like placing a time capsule in a building’s foundation, the signing of the first blade is symbolic of our commitment to alternative power generation for generations to come.”

The group signed their names and added their comments to one of the 187-foot-long wind turbine blades that will be used in the construction of the South Fork Wind Farm. Once completed and operational later this year, six wind turbines will have a capacity of about 13 megawatts (MW) and will produce about 49,000 megawatt-hours (MWH) of electricity annually — an amount equivalent to about 5.6% of Muscatine’s native system energy requirement. That amount of electricity is enough to power about 5,085 homes for a year.

“For years, we’ve been evaluating opportunities to find a solution that provides the sustainability benefits with minimal impact to our consumers’ rates,” said Gage Huston, Director of Power Production and Supply. “The current combination of lower costs and tax subsidies afforded us a unique opportunity to participate in South Fork and provide Muscatine a diversified mix of energy sources in a cost-effective manner.”

Although the wind farm is located Jackson County, MN, the site is within MP&W’s Local Resource Zone as defined by the Midcontinent Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) and will operate for the benefit of MP&W. The project will help offset greenhouse gas emissions by about 58,889 tons annually, equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by 32,597 acres of forest in a year.

“Aspenall Energies is delighted to be part of the South Fork Community Wind Project as its owner/developer,” said Raoul Slavin Julia, Aspenall Managing Director. “We are enthusiastic proponents of community wind, which supports local land owners and businesses, and has fewer negative impacts on the community, infrastructure, and environment than utility-scale projects. South Fork Wind will bring benefits to the community here in southern Minnesota, as well as supplying a municipal utility in neighboring Iowa with sustainable, clean energy at a predictable cost, all using GE turbines made in the USA.”

In addition to the South Fork Wind Farm project, the utility is currently gauging local interest in the development of a community solar garden which would further diversify energy production for Muscatine. MP&W reports that local consumer demand for a renewable energy option continues to grow, with 44% of residential customers surveyed expressing a desire to utilize renewable energy.

“This is just part of our long-term commitment to the community,” said Erika Cox, Director of Employee and Community Relations. “Beside the benefits of diversifying our generation resources, it advances the utility’s core value of environmental stewardship and helps us proactively comply with current and future regulation of fossil fuels as well as future compliance costs.”

If customers are interested in checking out the wind farm’s development, a live webcam has been installed at the site that allows customers to follow the site construction. In addition to the live feed, time lapse videos of various aspects of the construction will be posted as they become available. Go to mpw.org/windcamera to check it out.

Find additional information on MP&W’s renewable vision at mpw.org/renewable.

Muscatine Power and Water (MP&W) is a customer-driven, not-for-profit municipal utility, established by the community for the purpose of serving the community responsively, competitively, and responsibly. MP&W provides reliable electricity, high quality water, and state-of-the-art communications services, including video and broadband services, to homes and businesses throughout the Muscatine community at rates below state and national averages with outstanding customer service. MP&W is locally controlled and operated for the benefit and betterment of the community.

The MISO (Midcontinent Independent Transmission System Operator) territory map is shown below. MP&W is a transmission owning and load serving entity member of MISO and participates in MISO’s centrally cleared energy market. All energy delivered to MP&W’s customers is purchased from the MISO market and all energy produced by MP&W is sold into the MISO market.

MISO Local Resource Zone – the MISO capacity market is broken into resource zones to ensure the energy from generation/capacity resources within each zone is able to flow to loads within that zone.  MP&W falls in MISO Local Resource Zone 3.