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Minnesota continues to be a leader in wind energy

Minnesota is now No. 4 in the nation in installed wind capacity, according to the quarterly U.S. wind energy rankings published by the American Wind Energy Association in January.

Three new, large wind farms that came online late last year pushed Minnesota to No. 4, up from No. 7 the previous quarter. Minnesota ended 2010 with wind energy production capacity of 2,196 megawatts.

Since the construction of its first wind farm in Crookston in 1987, Minnesota has been a leader for wind energy development in the Midwest.

"Minnesota must maintain momentum in clean energy such as wind technology that will pay dividends in the future," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "Wind energy helps create jobs and economic development for the state."

Between 1998 and 2007, the number of jobs in the clean energy sector in Minnesota grew by 11.9 percent, compared with overall job growth of 1.9 percent during the same period, according to The Clean Energy Economy, a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

According to a June 2010 report from AWEA, the U.S. wind energy industry currently employs 18,500 workers in the manufacturing sector and could support tens of thousands of additional jobs if the right policies are put in place.

Indeed, a number of policies and financial incentives, described in more detail below, have encouraged wind energy development in the state.

First, Minnesota boasts an aggressive renewable energy standard (RES) that requires utilities to generate at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind by 2025. Xcel Energy, the largest utility in the state, is required to generate 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Minnesota's RES will increase the state's renewable energy capacity by approximately 5,000 to 6,000 megawatts by 2025 with wind energy as a major component.

In addition, electric utilities are required to consider community-owned wind energy projects when seeking to add renewable generation to their supply mix. At the end of 2010, 409 megawatts of community-owned wind projects were up and running.

Most recently, in 2010, the state offered a rebate program, now fully subscribed, for homeowners and small businesses that provided substantial financial support for small wind turbine installations. Homeowners received up to $10,000 and small businesses up to $25,000 towards eligible system and installation costs.

For more information on wind energy, visit the OES website