As the Renewable Energy Program manager for the Western Area Power Administration, I had the opportunity to showcase the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America initiative at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) annual Tech Advantage Conference in Orlando, Florida, from March 8 to 11. More than 8,000 electric utility professionals attended event, and many visited the Wind Powering America booth on the exhibit floor. Attendees stopped by to learn more about the program and to find out how wind energy could benefit both utilities and consumers.
On Friday, March 11, I had the pleasure of presenting the 2011 Wind Cooperative of the Year Award to Karen Thingelstad of Minnkota Power Cooperative. The award recognized Minnkota for developing North Dakota’s first utility-owned wind turbine and for investing in wind energy through power purchase agreements with several wind projects. Wind energy now represents more than 30 percent of the cooperative’s total generation and transmission energy requirements, collectively contributing an average of nearly 1,300 gigawatt-hours per year at an average annual capacity factor of 41 percent.
The Department of Energy and NRECA created the Wind Cooperative of the Year award in 2002 to recognize electric cooperatives for leadership in wind development. A panel of wind industry, government, National Laboratory and electric cooperative experts had the very difficult task of choosing a single winner for this year’s award. The 2011 nominees formed an impressive list:
- Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative
- Hoosier Energy REC
- Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative
- Midwest Energy Cooperative
- Minnkota Power Cooperative
- Mountain View Electric Association
- Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative
- Sunflower Electric Cooperative, and
- Unalakleet Valley Electric Cooperative
Thingelstad, Minnkota's procurement manager, and other key staff members at Minnkota exemplify efforts by public power utilities to increase the use of cleaner, renewable resources to supply our nation's power requirements. By building a more diverse, resilient and sustainable power portfolio, Minnkota Power Cooperative has demonstrated its commitment to meeting its consumers' needs today, while protecting the environment for tomorrow.
Western is proud to partner with NRECA and the Department’s Wind Technologies program through Wind Powering America to remove barriers to increased wind development. The Wind Cooperative of the Year Award is one way we can encourage cooperatives that are showing fresh thinking to overcome those challenges.
Randy Manion is the Director of Western Area Power Administration’s Renewable Energy Program.