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'Let the wind blow': St. Olaf wind turbine is in place

By David Gonnerman '90
September 5, 2006

The turbine began generating electricity about two weeks after construction was completed.
New and returning students driving to campus on Highway 19 this fall will see a new structure on their way to school: the St. Olaf wind turbine. Located just west of campus (behind Ytterboe Residence Hall), the 1.6-megawatt turbine provides power directly to the campus, meeting one third of the college's annual need.

After delays due to the hailstorm that hit campus Aug. 24, the turbine's prop -- the last major element of the 350-foot tall structure -- was mounted in early September. The turbine became fully operational Sept. 19.

Workers completed a few final tasks before mounting each of the three 131-foot, 7.5 ton blades on the hub assembly Aug. 23.
In keeping with the college's commitment to having as little negative impact on the environment as possible and promoting a culture of sustainability, plans were first announced for the turbine in the fall of 2004. But the project, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Energy Fund, suffered from a variety of delays. The 1.2 million pound base for the structure was finally set in the fall of 2005.

A 300-ton crane slowly lifted the first blade into place on the ground Wednesday. Mounting the propeller will mark the completion of construction.
The major elements of the 350-foot tall structure, built by the Danish company Vestas Wind Systems, began arriving on campus in the middle of August.

For more photos, visit former St. Olaf art faculty member Patrick Kelley's construction blog that includes very cool time-lapse images.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or