Dedication of Lake Benton II, 104 MW Wind Power Generation Facility

Comments of Michael Noble, Executive Director,

Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy

September 17, 1999

What a spectacular day to dedicate a wind farm! Who says Minnesota has a harsh climate? Out east they’re fighting a hurricane today, and we get this?!

I am Michael Noble. I am the director of Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and today I represent the more than dozen of public interest and environmental organizations that have worked to support these kinds of projects, and I am very happy to be here.

Wind power is now the world’s fastest growing new energy source in the world, with over a billion dollars of private capital invested this past year in the United States. Fully 25% of that was invested right here in southwestern Minnesota. We folks in the cities know how tough the economy is out here and how badly folks are hurting, but you’ll agree that this wind energy is one really bright spot in a rural economy that’s otherwise full of hardship.

We have to do every thing we can to nourish this bright spot, to keep it growing and flourishing in our communities.

When something really great like this project happens, there’s more than enough credit to go around. The community of people here should take credit: offering your land, welcoming this industry into your homes and into your community. Without you this would never have happened.

The industry deserves credit: the engineers, the finance folks, the manufacturers and suppliers and those guys who go up those towers to oil them, change out parts and true up the blades.

My colleagues and friends in the advocacy community deserve credit: for your outspoken voices, your research and analysis–your willingness to understand the economics and the perspectives of the utilities and the market– and especially your ability to get regular folks involved.

The policy makers have played an important role, and deserve credit: your elected officials at the local level and in the legislature and Congress have all worked together to nurture this nascent industry. Senator Novak here, has chaired the key Senate energy committee that has moved along the support for this kind of initiative.

I think you would all agree that there is one other special person from the legislature who must be recognized today: my dear friend and colleague and ally, State Senator Janet Johnson, who died suddenly on August 21. In her first three years in the Senate, she passed ten bills into law to support clean and sustainable technologies.

I was very fortunate to be invited to give a eulogy at Janet Johnson’s memorial service, and those of you who were there heard me tell about one of the things that Janet taught me. I doubt it’s where she got it, but Janet had the same attitude expressed on a plaque on Ronald Reagan’s desk: “You can accomplish anything you want, if you don’t care who gets the credit.” And Janet worked tirelessly for days like today, and she never cared about the credit.

But the truth is that sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due: and I want to use my last moments here to give credit to two more people, in particular. I think I might surprise you.

First, I want to give credit to Jim Howard, President and Chairman of the Board of Northern States Power Company. We’ve had some hard times, but in the past year, our community has a whole new relationship with this company. We’ve been working closely with the company on some really tough issues and it would not have been possible without Jim Howard’s support. For example, earlier this year we came to a common agreement on the administration of a Renewable Energy Development Fund, that will soon begin to invest in strategic initiatives to bring more renewables to market above and beyond these mandates. It will begin at $4.5 million a year, and will soon grow to $8.5 million a year. We are working together right now to bring some positive changes to regulatory incentives for energy conservation. And just last week, NSP announced its intent to modernize one of the dirtiest coal plants in its fleet—voluntarily. We are really working much more closely than ever, on other tough issues like biomass energy, and have even more opportunities ahead. Now, Jim Howard is planning to retire in about a year, and it is our view that he has the opportunity still ahead of him to make a few decisions that will position his company as possibly the greenest, most environmentally responsible utility in America. We want to work with him to accomplish that.

There’s one other person I want to mention, someone who does not get nearly enough credit. George Crocker, are you here? Will you stand? Days like today are because of people like George Crocker. George has been working to push for a clean energy future since nearly when I was in high school, and he has done it consistently with a vision, a singleness of purpose, a focus that is unmatched. His commitment to these issues, going back to when he fought powerlines in the seventies in western Minnesota cannot be challenged. Let give him a hand of applause for that commitment.

Now, can we continue to find common ground on these tough issues? For example, George, NSP can we count on you, and all the folks in this community to work to support the new transmission upgrades that will be needed to get more of this clean, affordable wind power out of southwest Minnesota and off to market? Can we all? George? Audrey?

So, credit to you all: community–advocates–industry–policy makers at the State and in the legislature and Congress, lets all keep working together to move forward on this adventure, to move forward with the clean non-polluting energy that we want to leave to our children and their children. Thank you all, and thank you for having me here today.