The High Country Wind Energy Center is making progress every day toward its anticipated commercial
operation date. Discover below how far we have come and what is next in the development process.
Menu of our Progress:
- High Country Energy Elects A New Advisory Board Member
- June 23, 2010 Members Meeting is a Success
- High Country Energy Seeks New Board Member Candidates
- Site Control and Participation
- Transmission Interconnection
- Environmental Studies
- Meteorological Towers
- Interconnection Milestone Achieved
- High Country Footprint Expands to the North
South Footprint Update
New Field Specialists Join Team
Wisconsin Public Service Project
Out and About at the Fairs
- High Country Hosts Party to Celebrate Successes
- Final Phase Interconnection Study Process
- High Country Energy & Wisconsin Public Service Corporation Sign Agreement on Wind Farm Purchase
22,000 Acres Signed, New Footprint Announced
- High Country Energy Announces Holiday Open House and Local Food Drive
- High Country Energy Announces the Opening of its Kasson, MN Office Location
- Two Local Community Members Join High Country Energy's Advisory Board
- High Country Energy Closes the Nation's First Intrastate Public Offering for a Wind Project
- High Country Energy Announces the Nation's First Public Offering
- High Country Energy and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. Announce Agreement on Wind Farm Purchase
- Utility Co-Development and Acquisition
- The 2nd Meteorological Tower is Installed
Wind Option Update
Summer 2010High Country Energy Elects a New Advisory Board Member
High Country Energy, LLC has elected Michael Frost to the wind project’s local advisory board. Frost, a farmer and participant in High Country Energy, was elected to the board during the project’s recent annual member’s meeting. He represents community members within High Country’s northern footprint, located in Dodge County’s Concord, Milton, Wasioja and Mantorville townships and Olmsted County’s New Haven and Kalmar townships.
“Mike’s presence on the board will help us cultivate more participation in High Country Energy,” says Bryant Hokeness, Chairman of the project’s advisory board.
View the full press release here
June 23rd, 2010 Annual Members Meeting is a Success
High Country Energy invites its members to an annual meeting at the Kasson Events Center on June 23, 2010. The project's founders and board members, along with field specialists, Dan Hemmingsen and Missy Kelley helped welcome meeting attendees. National Wind developer of the project, Bill Smeaton and National Wind co-chair, Patrick Pelstring, were on hand to give the night's presentation. Over 70 High Country Energy members gathered to learn about the project's progress, specifically in the development's north footprint. An important evening activity included the election of Mike Frost to the project's advisory board. Mike has been a longtime farmer in Dodge County and is excited to help High Country Energy build the project further.
High Country Seeks New Board Member Candidates
Are you interested in contributing to the development of the High Country Energy wind project? Perhaps joining High Country Energy’s Member Advisory Board is the right move to make. We are looking for qualified individuals with a desire to see a collaborative community wind energy project developed in our area. Our board meets with National Wind each month to review project progress and plans. Board members are encouraged to offer the input and suggestions, providing local counsel on the issues that matter to our community.
The local advisory board is a key component to High County Energy’s Community Development approach. It consists of investors and participating landowners from our project areas who work side by side with our developer, National Wind, to provide knowledge of area farming practices, land use, community issues and the like. This group provides a link to the people and issues of the project area, and represents the ‘voice of the community’ on the project development team. One great example of this in practice is our land lease agreement, on which the board worked closely with National Wind to make significant improvements to make it more competitive and landowner-friendly.
Our member advisory board currently consists of eight members, with one open seat. We will be electing new members from our community to fill this open seat, as well as up to three current seats which are up for reelection this year. One or more of these seats may be elected at our upcoming annual members meeting on the evening of June 23rd.
If you are (or know of) an investor or participating landowner who wishes to become involved in helping shape this project, please contact one of our field specialist, project developers or any current board member see below for a PDF version of a project contact sheet. You will be provided with a questionnaire and a list of guidelines, and someone from the board will walk you through the process.
Site Control and Participation
We currently have significant landowner agreements in our south footprint, specifically in Vernon, Rockdell, High Forest and Hayfield townships. Including local investors, we have 300 community members directly participating in the ownership of our project through our community-owned model. Our field team is actively undergoing the easement conversion process with signed landowners.We are also targeting landowners in our north footprint, which includes community members located in the townships of Mantorville, Milton, Concord, Wasioja and Kalmar. We are gaining momentum in our north footprint with over 1,300 acres of signed land rights currently.
Transmission interconnection is very much a bright spot for our project. High Country Energy can happily report that one of its 300 megawatt interconnection request applications is in the third and final study stage right before the project is effectively given the green light to interconnect. This makes our project one of only two advanced interconnect positions in our region of SE Minnesota.
We have conducted the necessary environmental studies that do not reveal any ‘fatal flaws’ in our target project areas and a site permit application has been submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
We now have over 2 ½ years of on-site wind data from three wind measurement towers in our project’s footprint area. This data is crucial because it creates a very precise picture of exactly what the wind in our project area is doing. From this, we’ve calculated accurate energy production estimates used in preliminary turbine layout designs. These various designs have allowed us to submit our preliminary site permit to the state of Minnesota. An important takeaway though is that utilities often require a year to over a year of on-site wind data and energy estimate documentation before they consider purchasing energy from a project like ours. We have used this information for multiple wind profile and energy analysis reports to verify the commercial viability of our project. Therefore, High Country stands in a very advantageous position moving forward.
Interconnection Milestone Achieved
High Country Energy has reached an important project milestone!
One of our two interconnection requests, G852,has entered the
final stage of the Midwest Independent System Operator's (MISO)
study process, known as the Definitive Planning Phase (DPP).
This is the final review stage before connection to the electrical
transmission system is granted, and will result in an estimate of the
scope and cost of network upgrades as well as an interconnection
agreement with MISO.
High Country Footprint Expands to the North
Summer is always an exciting time for everybody, buzzing with
many activities including vacations and outdoor festivites.
It's much the same for High Country Energy, as our field staff
expand into a second footprint area. Termed our North Footprint,
we are working to secure land in Dodge and Olmsted Counties'
Mantorville, Milton, Concord, Wasioja, New Haven and Kalmar
townships. This footprint is targeted to support 150+ megawatts
of wind energy generation across an expanse of over 20,000 acres.
e expect this wind farm to be operational by 2013.
South Footprint Update
Expanding our wind project into the North Footprint for a
subsequent 150MW phase is due in part to the progress we have
made on our first footprint, the South Footprint. We except this
footprint to support up to 300MW of wind energy in Vernon,
Rock Dell and Hayfield townships. We have gained the participation of
nearly 200 local community members and investors. With our
interconnection request for this footprint currently in the
final study phase of the interconnection process (DPP), we
anticipate beginning construction in 2010 and operation in 2011.
New Field Specialists Join Team
Please welcome Skip DeLong and JJ Jones to the High Country Energy
project team! Brought on to help secure land rights in our North
Footprint, Skip & JJ bring years of valubable experience to
High Country Energy. Both Skip & JJ join High Country after
successful work at other National Wind projects. Before joining
High Country Skip worked as a field specialist assigned to the
M-Power 169.5 MW Luverne Wind Farm project in North Dakota,
which is now under construction. JJ worked on the NECO Wind
project in Colorado.
Wisconsin Public Service Project
High Country Energy & Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) have
been closely watching the requirements of our Acquisition and
Sale Agreement (ASA) in light of the acceleration of our G852
interconnection request into MISO's Definitive Planning Phase (DPP).
The original letter of intent, signed in March 2008, was
negotiated between WPS and High Country Energy prior to MISO’s
queue reform, and the ASA was signed during MISO’s post-reform
transition period. To take advantage of a “first ready, first
served” MISO approach, High Country moved G852 into the DPP.
After High Country Energy’s G852 interconnection request moved
into DPP, the siting and interconnect issues associated with
moving to the DPP began to be more evident. The result was
it became more difficult to keep High County’s and WPS
objectives aligned. We came to the conclusion that the
siting and interconnect issues could not be resolved in
time to meet the ASA schedule requirements, and effective
July 2, 2009, WPS exercised a milestone option and
terminated the ASA.
Out and About at the Fairs
High Country Energy participated as an exhibitor in the
Dodge County Fair from July 15th-19th and at the Olmsted
County Fair from July 27th-August 2nd. Field specialists,
Dan, JJ and Missy, alongn with some of the project's local
founders and developer Tiff Thompson, help raise familiarity
with the project at both fairs.
Participation in the fairs also creates opportunities for
dialogue with local community members about the difference
between High Country Energy and non-community based wind projects
in the area.
High Country Host Party to Celebrate Successes
Friday, August 21st, 2009, marks the 2nd annual High Country
Energy celebration bash at board member Dana Christie’s
Stewartville residence, located at 10685 County Road 108 SW,
and YOU’RE INVITED! This end of summer event recognizes
High Country Energy’s 2nd anniversary, along with its
Final Phase in Interconnection Study Process
Transmission is a complicated issue for all wind farms
being planned. High Country Energy is working in collaboration
with Wisconsin Public Service Corporation to devise an
energy-efficient and economically-viable transmission plan.
High Country Energy currently has two interconnection requests
filed with the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO),
both of which have moved into the Definitive Planning Stage
of the interconnection process.
In September 2007, MISO launched a work group to discuss how
to improve the interconnection process. The MISO transmission
system was facing a “backlog” of requests and under its current
rules, it would need until 2050 to process all the interconnection
applications. MISO’s main problem was its “first-come, first-served”
structure, which allowed anyone to submit a request. In order to
improve service and reduce the amount of time projects spend in the “queue,” modifying the process became necessary.
As of October 2008, the process for interconnection has been revised.
Under the revised system, a subset of several milestones must
be reached that are indicative of “project-readiness” and
commitment to move forward with the interconnection.
This includes having site control, permits, and Power
Purchase Agreements in place. One issue with the new system
is the increased expense of participating in interconnection
study processes. However, High Country Energy’s development
team remains positive.
High Country Energy and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
Sign Agreement on Wind Farm Purchase
High Country Energy, LLC, and Wisconsin Public Service
Corporation (WPSC), a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group,
Inc. (NYSE: TEG), have signed a definitive Acquisition and
Sale Agreement (ASA) for a 150 megawatt (MW) portion of the
High Country Wind Energy Park.
In March 2008, WPS signed a letter of intent with High Country
Energy to work toward this final agreement. This agreement requires
a “construction-ready” sale of the project, where High Country Energy
and WPS will co-develop the wind park.
Construction of the project will be dependent on the timeline set
by the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) for transmitting
the electricity. MISO is the organization that manages the
transmission grid for this geographical region.
As proposed, this first phase will include an estimated 100
turbines, providing up to 150 MW’s of capacity, or enough energy
to power 45,000 homes.
The energy from this first project phase will be delivered to
WPS’s service territory, consisting of a large portion of north
central Wisconsin and a small part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
22,000 Acres Signed, New Footprint Announced
Site control is one of the most important pieces in wind
project development. Establishing site control ensures
the exclusive rights to develop a wind project at a proposed
site. For a 300 megawatt, utility-scale wind farm, complete
site control will require about 35,000 to 40,000 acres of land.
Dan Hemmingsen and Missy Kelley began site control efforts in
July 2007 and secured 22,000 acres of the southern footprint by
January 2009, allowing for a near-complete footprint for the
150 MW Wisconsin Public Service Corporation wind farm.
The southern footprint includes Vernon, Rock Dell,
and Hayfield townships. The project area is also
being re-positioned to include a second footprint
that encompasses the following northern townships:
Mantorville, Milton, Concord, Wasioja and Kalmar
townships. Missy Kelley and Dan Hemmingsen are
actively working on securing land in the “new”
northern footprint which is located three miles north
of the point of interconnection.
The important difference in High Country Energy’s community
wind farm development, versus other projects in the area is
that landowners get the opportunity to become owners of the
development company. Compared to other developer-owned projects,
community-based developments distribute more benefits to
local economies. More proceeds from the wind project remain
in the community.
High Country Energy Announces Holiday Open House and
Local Food Drive
High Country Energy, along with its managing partner,
National Wind, invites the community to share the holiday
spirit at an open house in their new Kasson office (122
West Main Street) on Monday, December 22, 2008 from 1pm
to 7pm. Learn how this locally-owned wind farm development
will benefit the community and participate in a local food
drive that will help feed hungry families.
Anyone from the communtiy is welcome to attend to meet with
local High Country Energy members and National Wind. The
public is encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item
in exchange for a picture with Santa Claus. All food
drive items will benefit the Channel One Food Bank and
Food Shelf and the Semcac Dodge County Food Shelf,
helping feed people in need in Olmsted County, Dodge
County, and throughout the SE Minnesota area.
High Country Energy Announces the Opening of its
Kasson, MN Office
High Country Energy, LLC along with its manager,
National Wind, LLC, announces today the opening
of an office in Kasson, Minnesota. The new office
will allow High Country Energy to better address
the growing demand for local involvement in their
wind farm development, along with improving services
to the current 190 local participating residents. Read
the press release here
Two Local Community Members Join the Advisory Board
of High Country Energy
High Country Energy is pleased to announce that two
respected community members will be joining their advisory
board. John Meyer of Stewartville, MN and Lisa Heggedahl
of Hayfield, MN, will help the board ensure that the wind
project stays in touch with local interests and ideas. Both
hold a passion for this renewable energy source as well as
community involvement, making them a valuble asset to this
community development model. Read the press release here
High Country Energy Closes the Nation's First Intrastate
Public Offering for a Wind Project
High Country Energy's public offering, filed in May of 2008,
was completed in as little as four months. The offering
added approximately 60 investors to the project company.
Many of the 100 members who have signed wind rights with
High Country Energy, own units in the company.
This offering helps further the project's goals of having a
large portion of the community participate in the project.
Read the press release here
High Country Energy had a "Summer Celebration" on
Friday, August 15, 2008. The event was held at board member,
Dana Christie's house in Stewartville, Minnesota. Over
100 High Country Members attended, helping celebrate the
project's success. High Country Energy board members,
Bryant Hokeness, Dana Christie, Erick Lee, Dan Hoffman,
and Barry Rognes were present. Attendees enjoyed food,
drink, and the many giveaway items that were handed out,
including two, large windmill lawn ornaments! View photos here
High Country Energy Announces Intrastate Public Offering
This offering is the first of its kind - an intrastate public
offering for a wind farm's securities. Delphi Financial Corp.,
an investment banking firm specializing in raising capital for
community-based renewable energy projects, is the placement
agent for the offering. The offering is only open to Minnesota
residents, and landowners in the project area will receive
priority. Please visit www.delphfinancial.com for more information
and to register to view a prospectus online.
Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and High Country Energy
Team up to Build 150 MW
On March 14, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPSC)
announced that it had signed a letter of intent with High
Country Energy to co-develop and acquire the first 150 megawatt
phase of the wind project. This phase will cover around 35
square miles of High Country Energy’s 78 square miles of land
and will include an estimated 100 turbines. High Country Energy
and WPSC expect to wrap up the permitting and transmission process
and begin construction on this portion of the wind park in the
next two years. A significant portion of the proceeds from this
sale will be returned to the landowners who have ownership
interest in High Country Energy.
2nd Met Tower is Installed to Collect Wind Data
National Wind Assessments, the wind resource analysis
division of National Wind, installed the second on-site
meteorological tower within the High Country Energy footprint,
the week of January 28th, 2008. Four months ago, the first
meteorological tower was installed. Studies thus far indicate
strong wind speeds.
Utility Co-Development and Acquisition
High Country Energy has been in negotiations with a regional
utility to co-develop and acquire a 100 to 150 megawatt phase
of this wind development. A letter of intent plans to be
finalized before the end of February 2008. A utility
co-development and acquisition, commonly referred to as
a "construction ready" sale of a project,
adds credibility to a project, making it more attractive
to other utilities. Also, it allows for substantial
revenue earlier on in the process, unlike a Power Purchase
Agreement with a utility.
A project sale is only one part of High Country Energy's project
portfolio. Several other 100 to 150 megawatt phases will be
financed under a Power Purchase Agreement with a utility,
providing High Country Energy with additional long-term benefits.
Wind Option Update
Dan Hemmingsen and Missy Kelley signed on with National
Wind last summer to coordinate landowner participation
in the High Country Energy project. As field specialists,
Dan and Missy were excited to bring local landowners into
the High Country Energy project. To date,64 landowners
have signed wind option agreements.
High Country Energy, LLC is Formed and Capitalized:
• National Wind partnered with seven local investors
to form the ownership entity, High Country Energy, LLC.
• The member control agreement is complete and has been filed.
•Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO)
Interconnection is Filed
• In April, High Country Energy, LLC filed for MISO
interconnection for an initial 300 MW's.
• Generally the interconnection process takes anywhere from
18 to 36 months.
• The system impact study has been ordered. This may require
construction of an 8 mile private transmission line.
• High Country Energy, LLC has retained Excel Engineering,
as its primary transmission consultant.
Initial Feasibility Studies are Complete:
• Wind Analysis: Romuld Wind Consulting, of Grand Forks, ND,
completed our wind assessment. On site meteorological
towers will collect ongoing wind data.
• Environmental: HDR Engineering completed an environmental
review of the project and did not find any significant
obstacles to permitting the project. HDR will complete
all the site environmental and permitting activities
upon confirmation that a utility has selected the project
and negotiations for a purchase power agreement are underway.
• Transmission: Excel Engineering completed the preliminary
transmission report and a schedule is in place for
interconnection by 2010, subject to completion of any
required network improvements.