Lac qui Parle County

The Redemptive Windmill: A west central MN victory

November 2023

A large outdoor wind turbine set against a blue sky.Imagine you have a wind turbine at your school. It’s over 150 feet tall, with an 18,000 pound generator and three 46-feet long blades, each weighing about 4,000 pounds.

 And it stopped working. 

This was the problem the Lac qui Parle Valley School District found itself facing during spring 2022. The 225-kilowatt wind turbine – which paid for itself in 10 years via energy savings and incentives – normally had been producing about 25 percent of the electricity used by the school. Erected in the winter of 1997, it had become something of a landmark for the Lac qui Parle Valley (LQPV) Eagles. Science teachers at the school even used it as a part of their lessons. 

What to do now?

Jacob Selseth with West Central CERT, got to sleuthing. 

“We are lucky here in the west central region to have enormous amounts of expertise in clean energy,” notes Selseth. “That said, it wasn't easy to find the right person for the job. I asked everybody I knew who had medium-size turbines. Finally, I reached out to my old friends at Great River Energy and they connected me with Dennis, who stepped up to the plate for LQPV.”

Where’s there a Will(iams) there’s a way!

Selseth is referring to Dennis Williams, out of Egan, South Dakota, and his company Williams Power Systems.

“Dennis attended a school board meeting where he shared his history of success in reconditioning older windmills,” notes Rick Ellingsworth, superintendent of Lac qui Parle Valley schools. “Dennis also outlined a process that he thought could lead to the windmill working again. At the same meeting, the school board unanimously authorized him to move forward. About four months later, the windmill was operational.”

Selseth notes that Doug Reed with the Morris Challenge had made him aware of the situation, and that the leadership from Superintendent Ellingsworth, and a supportive school board made all the difference. 

“In this unique case we were able to bring back 1/2 million kWh annually of incredibly cost-effective, clean, renewable energy back into the district. Thus lowering their operating expenses with basic repair and maintenance that needed to be accomplished by industry professionals,” says Selseth.

"This was an exemplary opportunity to bring clean energy back to life at Lac qui Parle Valley schools."

- Jacob Selseth

Superintendent Ellingsworth says he’s especially grateful to Jacob Selseth for the recommendations he made and for the ongoing support he has provided. 

“Many district residents, staff and students have mentioned the uplifting feeling they have when they approach the high school building and see the blades of the old windmill churning again,” says Ellingsworth. “We are highly appreciative of the support we received along the way!"

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