North Itasca Electric Co-operative, Inc

Wellspring Renewable Energy Program

What is the Wellspring renewable wind energy program all about?
The Wellspring renewable wind energy program is a voluntary program that offers wind-generated electricity to co-op members. Electricity provided by wind generation is a coordinated effort between North Itasca Electric Cooperative, Great River Energy and its other 28 distribution cooperatives.

How will wind power be produced?
Wind power will be produced using new giant wind turbines. The number of turbines built will be determined by the number of customers who choose to subscribe for the service. The higher the level of Wellspring subscriptions the larger the new wind farm. The Chandler Hills Wind Farm currently consists of nine utility scale (660KW each) wind turbines with a combined nameplate capacity of nearly 6 MW. If customer demand is high enough, the wind farm could be expanded.

How do customers participate?
First, to participate in the program, you must be a customer of North Itasca Electric Cooperative or one of Great River Energy's other 28 member cooperatives. We are asking interested customers to make a minimum one-year commitment to buy electricity from the Wellspring renewable wind energy program for a slight added cost.

Is the wind power supplied directly to my home?
No. The electricity generated by the wind turbines is fed into the state's electric system, called the grid. It is like pouring a pitcher of water into a pond. You can't get the water from the pitcher back out of the pond. The same holds true for recapturing wind-generated electricity from the grid. It is there, available to use, but to deliver the exact electron generated by the wind turbine is not possible. The wind power that you purchase will replace electricity that would have been generated by conventional fossil fuels.

Will customers still receive traditional sources of power?
Yes. Customers won't be able to distinguish whether the electrons flowing into their homes were generated by wind power or not. But customers can be assured their commitment to Wellspring renewable wind energy will result in the construction of new wind generators that will help lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Will power in customers' homes be dependent upon the wind blowing?
No. Customers' power will continue as usual.

How does this project affect people who do not subscribe?
This project has no impact on customers who do not want to participate. Many customers may be satisfied knowing their power is produced by efficient conventional power plants. This project is for customers who want to utilize renewable energy resources, and are willing to pay the extra costs associated with it.

What do the wind turbines look like?
The towers are 213 feet tall with a rotor and generator mounted at the top. The rotor has a diameter of 47 meters or over half the length of a football field. The site of wind turbines is along the windy Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota.

Are turbines dangerous to birds?
There is a risk if a bird flies into the spinning turbine. However, the new large turbine blades rotate at a relatively slow speed and have a much lower risk to birds than earlier turbine designs. In addition, the Buffalo Ridge area is not near a major bird flyway, further reducing the potential for avian mortality.

What if a customer moves?
A customer moving within the cooperative service territory can maintain their commitment to Wellspring renewable wind energy by simply being transferred to their new address.

Why is this program being offered?
North Itasca Electric Cooperative customers have indicated a preference for renewable energy options. Renewable energy is a product that customers want and we are in the business of providing what customers want.

Will other "green" resources be offered in the future?
The decision to offer additional "green" resources will be made by customers. Wind is currently the most cost-effective renewable resource available. Co-ops will continue to assess the viability of other renewable resources.

Will customers get all of their electrical energy from the Wellspring
renewable wind energy program? Customers can decide how much wind energy they want to buy (in 100 kWh blocks). Customers can purchase an amount up to their normal monthly consumption. For example: if their normal usage is 800 kWhs/month they can purchase up to eight blocks.

Will wind power cost more?
Yes. Although this project is the most cost-effective "Green Resource" option we have identified, it is still more expensive than conventional electrical energy generating options. The main reason is the relative high cost of the wind turbine, which can only produce power when the wind blows. The extra cost of wind power will be passed directly through to the consumer. We estimate that wind power will be available for about an additional two dollars per 100 kWh block of energy. The typical household uses 800 kWhs/month of energy per month.

What is the schedule for this program?
The first three turbines were commissioned in 1999, with six additional turbines following in December 2001. Future additions will be determined by customer demand for Wellspring energy.

When will I be billed for the Wellspring blocks I purchase?
Wellspring customers will be billed on a monthly basis. If Wellspring demand exceeds supply, customers won't be billed until new turbines come on line.

How do you keep customers informed of the progress of the Wellspring project?
Progress will be reported throughout the various phases of the project in the Watt's News or local newspaper articles.

If you want to participate in the Wellspring renewable energy program, fill out the Application form and send it in. Call Jerry Loney, Energy Management Specialist, for further information at (218) 743-3131 or 1 (800) 762-4048 or email him at jerryl@nieci.com .