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Farmers Eye Wind Harvest

by Associated Press
Capital Press - July 19, 2002

WOODSTOCK, Minn. -- Dan Juhl is in the business of selling electricity, not buying it.

He runs a "farm" of 17 big wind generators outside Woodstock, a Pipestone County town of 132 people. He teaches others how to farm the wind and designs self-sufficient energy projects for homes and businesses. And he maintains machinery for some of the 450 windmills that march across 50 miles of the Buffalo Ridge formation in southwestern Minnesota.

For more than 25 years, he has worked with wind generation. But he's also looking ahead to what wind can do for family farmers at a time when long-term stability looks elusive.

"Farmers are desperately looking for ways to diversify," he said.

"Wind energy is a cash crop," one that's not tied to the vagaries of weather, volatile markets or the price of gasoline and fertilizer.

In many ways, he said, "farming wind is like farming any other cash crop. The main difference is the combines are 200 feet in the air."

Juhl sees his job as helping farmers become owners, and he said he has 14 projects lined up this year. That means helping arrange financing, permits and construction for 28 generators. Plus contracts for power sales -- usually to Twin Cities-based Xcel Energy, which buys enough Minnesota wind-generate electricity each year to replace nearly 3,800 railroad cars full of coal.

Associated Press
Farmers Eye Wind Harvest
Capital Press - July 19, 2002

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