A favorable vote from the Northfield City Council last Monday may help Carleton take the lead in its sustainability arms race with St. Olaf College. Pending funding and further approval from the city, a second Carleton wind turbine - smaller, cheaper and closer to campus than the existing one - may start spinning by the end of the year.
Carleton Director of Energy Management Robert Lamppa has been working on the details of the new project for the last two years. He envisions a 1 megawatt unit that would cost between $2 and $2.5 million - about two thirds as costly and two thirds as productive as the college’s 2004 turbine. The new plan also would produce energy directly into the school’s power grid instead of selling it to Xcel Energy. This is to save the school the 2 cents a kilowatt hour difference between the rates that Xcel buys and sells Carleton its energy.
The new unit would stand about as tall as the existing turbine, but would run on two shorter rotary blades. Much more immediate to the rest of campus, it would be built just to the east of the school water tower along Spring Creek Road and Highway 19.
Swedish firm Nordic Wind Power has already been identified as a likely manufacturer. The company recently opened a manufacturing plant in Pocatello Idaho and is now taking orders for 2009.
But Lamppa cannot promise any changes to the Northfield skyline this year. For the project to move along it will need zoning approval from approval from the City of Northfield and a place in the college’s heavily-constrained budget.
Monday’s meeting was the first step towards an agreement with the City of Northfield. The 5 to 1 vote signaled the Council’s decision to write zoning language about wind turbines. Northfield has never had to make consider wind turbines before because both Carleton’s and St. Olaf’s are outside of the city limits. Depending on what the city decides, Carleton’s next step will likely be to apply for a conditional-use permit.