Minnesota could generate at least 3,000 jobs by catering to industries involved in making and installing wind towers likely to result from the state’s ambitious renewable energy standard, advocates said Wednesday

Minnesota 2020, an organization that promotes wind, said the state’s

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renewable energy standard – which obligates utilities to derive at

least 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025 – can be

an economic engine.

The group estimates 3,000 to 5,000 jobs could

be created from attracting companies that make components for wind

turbines or that erect them on the massive wind farms that are dotting

the prairies.

Wind-related industries could also pump $8 billion

into Minnesota’s economy over the next 20 years, according to the

analysis by Minnesota 2020, a “think tank” based in St. Paul.

“I

think my estimate is conservative,” said Nathan Paine, a research

fellow with the organization, who used economic models developed by

University of Minnesota economists.

Minnesota has a good base to

build upon when it comes to developing industries involved in wind

power, said Joe Sheeran, a Minnesota 2020 spokesman.

The state

ranks fourth in terms of its installed wind-energy capacity, about

1,800 megawatts, or enough to power 450,000 homes, according to

Minnesota 2020’s figures.

Also, the state has a highly skilled

work force, including in welding and manufacturing, that could be put

to work building components for wind turbines, Sheeran said.

Minnesota already produces parts for wind towers, including turbines, housings for the gearboxes and bolts for the towers.

The

severe recession has taken a toll on jobs in Minnesota, which has shed

35,000 or more positions in the past year, Sheeran said.

Although

state and federal subsidies, including the production tax credit, make

wind power economically viable, renewable energy sources will become

more affordable if fossil fuels are subject to a carbon tax, he said.

Moorhead

Mayor Mark Voxland said the city is working toward the goal of

installing a third municipal wind turbine. The two towers, becalmed in

the gentle breeze Wednesday morning, were visible in the background as

the wind proponents spoke.

“We’ll use as much as we can,” the

mayor said, noting that every kilowatt generated by wind turbines means

the city’s customers don’t have to buy power elsewhere. More than half

of Moorhead’s electricity comes from hydropower, but that does not

count as a renewable source, he said.

As utilities scramble to

meet the 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2025, more wind farms

will be needed to meet the demand.

“I’d like to see a lot of these projects built in Minnesota,” Paine said.

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