“It’s unusual for a wind turbine to be in an urban area,” says Grant resident Paul Hoff. “But we’re windy up here, too” says Hoff, a member of the Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative (MAGI). The Zephyr wind turbine has been helping power the grid for over eight years—thanks to the Mahtomedi community, high school students and MAGI.
The project began to take shape in 2005 when a group of parents of Mahtomedi High School students began talking about how other Minnesota communities like Pipestone were putting up turbines. Hoff was optimistic that it would be possible to build a windmill in Mahtomedi.
The effort was launched in late 2006. Hoff began talking with other parents of Mahtomedi H.S. students and together they formed MAGI.
“We ... started meeting and were uniting around the idea of producing clean energy in Mahtomedi, and also to be an example for creating clean energy ... for the greater Mahtomedi community,” says Hoff. The group began looking at wind availability and saw that Mahtomedi had just enough wind to justify the project, Hoff says.
MAGI began fundraising for the turbine. The Minnesota Department of Commerce Office of Energy Security, the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team Seed Grant program, Cemstone, Gephart Electric, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and other installation workers, Mahtomedi Girl Scout Troop #51842 and 180 community families all contributed funds towards the project, Hoff says.
The Mahtomedi H.S. Eco Club also played a role in the project. By fundraising through concessions and tee-shirt sales, they raised $2,000, and inspired the community to raise the additional funds needed, says Hoff.
Four and a half years later, the turbine—costing a total of $100,000—was fully commissioned.
Named after the Mahtomedi H.S. mascot, the Zephyr wind turbine began spinning on September 8, 2011. It stands over 120-feet tall and overlooks the Mahtomedi H.S. athletic fields. Though small, it generates enough energy to power two or three homes, but it typically sends the power wherever it’s needed—including the high school.
“If any school is going to have a wind turbine, it should be [Mahtomedi],” says Hoff. “Their mascot is the Zephyr, the mythological god of the west wind. It’s a perfect fit.”
Hoff says the turbine couldn’t have been built without student involvement, and that the mayor, city council and school board also played important roles.
“[The turbine] is a symbol of what can happen when a group of dedicated volunteers and community members have a vision,” says Hoff. “Persistence can make good things happen."