There’s a lot to love about renewables. From being a
low-cost source of electricity generation to a smart business venture,
renewable energy has a lot to offer. As wind energy hits the 100 gigawatt (GW)
mark, and with more megawatts (MW) in the pipeline, clean energy capacity will
continue to increase. That means more jobs, economic benefits, and of course, a
reliable energy source that powers millions of homes. This wouldn’t be
possible, however, without partnering industries like manufacturing, shipping
and ground transportation.
Maybe the Midwest isn’t the first place that comes to
mind when you think of global shipping, but it is becoming an important
location for wind cargo. Ports account for 26
percent of U.S. economic activity ($4.6 trillion). Minnesota
is the seventh largest wind-producing state, and as the cost of wind decreased 67
percent in the last seven years, it has become an
important part of the Great Lakes area cargo portfolio.
The Port of Duluth receives wind energy parts from Spain, Denmark, Germany, South Korea and China for
transport to inland wind energy projects. As the farthest inland port in
North America, Duluth is a stellar location to support wind farm installations
in the Upper Midwest and central Canada, and it acts as an efficient connection
between modes of transportation for manufacturers and wind customers. The Duluth port is the farthest western
terminus of The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system, a 2,300 mile-long US/Canadian marine highway that extends
as far as the Atlantic. More than 160 million
metric tons of cargo moves through this system every year. In 2019, Duluth
received 306,000 freight tons of wind cargo through its gates, a record
Wind cargo doesn’t just come in from
other countries. Wind turbine blades made in North Dakota are also shipped from
Duluth to Spain, Brazil and Chile. These cargo shipments have positive economic
impacts on state economies and offer great job opportunities. Another top
shipping state is Michigan. It has more ports than any other
state in the region; the state’s booming shipping economy employs 26,819 people
as of 2018.
Midwest wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits from renewables as easily – or
economically – without its solid port and ground transportation
infrastructures. This is essential to improving
capabilities and drawing more imported bulk cargoes through ports. In addition,
roads have to be kept up-to-date in order for vehicles to deliver wind parts to
their final destination. The revenue that wind energy provides has actually
been a big help in improving local infrastructure.
Wind farms provide new tax revenue for
counties and townships, which is often used to improve roads, bridges and
reduce taxes. Not only does this help entire communities, but it ensures
farmers can continue operating heavy machinery on roads and bridges around
their farm. It also provides manufacturers and heavy-haul trucking operations
with optimal transportation routes for wind components to be delivered.
Maintaining solid infrastructures also requires
support at the city, county, state and federal government levels. As the wind
industry flourishes, this has become a priority to accommodate demand. In
Minnesota, there are 15,187
bridges that are owned by counties, cities and local
governments. Some of these bridges were built to meet design standards that are
now outdated by 50 years or more, with narrow lanes and shoulders. Wind
turbines are now an average of 62 meters long. The Minnesota Department of
Transportation (MNDOT) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have
embraced innovation to ensure bridges meet modern-day standards for trucks and
other transportation modes that meet weight and size capacities to get from
Point A to Point B.
million has been invested in Minnesota’s port, terminal and
waterway infrastructure. The Port of Duluth’s docks C and D, located across
from the Clure Public Marine Terminal at the end of Rice’s Point, recently
completed a $25 million transformation
into a multimodal transportation hub.
Renewable sources, like wind, are a great
environmental solution to our growing need for energy. Renewable energy is now
the second largest source of electricity in Minnesota, generating nearly 25
percent of the state’s electricity in 2017. Low-cost, clean, and reliable;
renewable energy is just smart.