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Officials say partnership good for area wind project

Geronimo Wind officials say their plans to build up to 33 wind turbines in rural Goodhue will move forward quickly now that they've partnered with a worldwide renewable energy provider.

The collaboration with Enel North America gives Minnesota-based Geronimo Wind Energy financial stability and more development expertise as the local project moves forward, said Blake Nixon, Geronimo's president.

"Any of our projects now have much less risk, including Goodhue," Nixon told the Republican Eagle. "We will move forward aggressively."

ENA's parent company is Enel Green Power, a company with renewable energy presence in several countries.

Geronimo and one other company - Goodhue Wind - both want to build a wind farm in rural Goodhue. Goodhue Wind recently filed its application with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, the state board responsible for permitting large wind projects.

Nixon said his company is working on a draft version of its permit and will submit it soon to the PUC.

"To the extent we're fully capitalized and know exactly where the money is going to come from to develop and build is probably the biggest advantage we could have over any competitor, including Goodhue Wind," Nixon said.

Without the partnership - which gives ENA a minority ownership of Geronimo - Nixon said the Goodhue area project would have moved slowly for capital reasons.

"We may have had problems if we didn't have the partnership," Nixon said. "The costs of managing through not only the development expenses ... but the interconnection process are getting quite expensive. Therefore you really need to have a big balance sheet - whether it's your own or your partners' - to help through that process."

Both Geronimo and Goodhue Wind came on the scene several years ago and have been working to sign land leases with Goodhue-area property owners interested in housing wind turbines.

A group of landowners has spoke out against both projects, asking state and local officials to facilitate more responsible wind energy development to help protect residents and preserve rural areas where turbines are housed.

Nixon said Geronimo officials have signed enough land to build a project, though they are still looking for additional property owners to house turbines.

"Through this partnership, Geronimo feels it has eliminated much of the uncertainty associated with the financial aspects of our projects, specifically Goodhue," Matt Mudra, Geronimo Wind marketing director, wrote in a press release.

Mudra and Nixon said the partnership will not prevent Geronimo from proceeding with the project as a Community-Based Energy Development, which is supposed to guarantee some level of local project ownership.

"Geronimo has ... a philosophy of commitment to the community that reflects our own," Francesco Starace, president of Enel Green Power, wrote in a press release.

Nixon called the Goodhue project one of Geronimo's "most promising."

"Goodhue is a good project," he said. "(The partnership) helps everything move forward."