Horizon’s new office a sign of more wind-power efforts on state horizon

The Portuguese CEO of a wind company was eagerly greeted by Minnesota’s commissioner of employment and economic development at last week’s grand opening of a new office in downtown Minneapolis.

It’s not a big office: Only nine people work in the Horizon Wind Energy office on First Avenue North — and they’re not looking to erect any of those giant wind turbines in Hennepin County or anywhere else in the metro area.

But Commissioner Dan McElroy was excited nonetheless, because Horizon will run a five-state operation from here — Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota — and Horizon is, after all, the third-largest wind energy company in the nation and is owned by a multinational company based in Portugal that is the fourth-largest wind energy producer in the world.

Wind energy is good for the environment and good for business, McElroy said. And with Minnesota power companies required to greatly increase the percentage of renewable energy in the coming years, we’ll see more and more of it, he said.

Wind energy is getting more efficient, and with more wind farms popping up in the region, it’s becoming a more stable power source “because there’s always some wind blowing somewhere,” he said.

And the state would like to attract more manufacturing of the giant turbines and related generation and transmission equipment, he said.

Horizon has one Minnesota wind farm in operation — in the Grand Meadow area — and it opened another Friday in Mitchell and Howard Counties in northern Iowa. (Our extended family owns farmland there that will be part of the wind farm, hence our invitation to the office opening.)

Antonio Martins da Costa, CEO of Horizon Wind Energy, said the Grand Meadow wind farm generates 101 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 30,000 homes, and the new Iowa development will generate 301 megawatts, enough for 90,000 homes.

Martins da Costa said he now lives in Houston, but had been in Minnesota earlier this month, too, for the Republican National Convention, where he met with key lawmakers and lobbyists to make the case for further wind incentives. He was in Denver, too, to meet with Democrats at their convention. The wind, obviously, knows no political boundaries.

Europe is far ahead of the United States in wind energy, Martins da Costa said, because of adherence to the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for the reduction of greenhouse gases.

But the United States has more wind resources — and lower population density, so it’s easier to place the giant turbines in lower-populated areas. That combination means that he expects to see great strides in wind production here.

And then that Minneapolis office will certainly expand.

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