Minnesota is one of the country's top producers of wind energy. New Mexico is the nation's top buyer. So it makes sense that Govs. Tim Pawlenty and Bill Richardson have joined forces to form a Governors' Windpower Coalition that they hope will put wind power on the cutting edge.
A growing source of clean, renewable energy, wind power is becoming a serious player in the energy market and is expected to increase its capacity as much as 30 percent in 2008.
Pawlenty, a Republican, and Richardson, a Democrat and presidential hopeful, sent the joint invitation to the nation's governors Friday and expect a robust response.
"This is being modeled after the Governors' Ethanol Coalition, which now has 30 states," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said. Pawlenty was chair of that coalition when he was second-in-command at the National Governors Association. He now leads that organization and has made renewable energy his signature issue.
The ethanol group "has been a very successful tool that has helped move the ball on ethanol and expand it from a regional effort to a national one," McClung said. "We think we can do the same thing with wind."
New Mexico is the highest per-capita wind user in the country, McClung said, while Minnesota is fourth-largest in wind-power capacity and fifth in retail sales of wind.
Xcel Energy produces the most wind energy of any utility in the country, he said, and the wind fields of southwestern Minnesota "are among the best locations for harnessing wind energy in the entire country."
J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy, a leading energy advocate group based in St. Paul, said the coalition could produce a much-needed push for wind.
"We want to see much more of a domestic wind energy industry form," Hamilton said. One offshoot of that, she said, could be more manufacturing jobs in Minnesota to produce the bulky, heavy components of wind turbines.
McClung said that already India's Suzlon Energy has a small manufacturing plant in Pipestone that employs 260 workers, which could double with higher demand.
The coalition is expected to commission research on wind policy issues, exchange information and get recommendations on federal and regional policy.