As a resident of Douglas County for my entire life, much of it in Superior, I can say for a fact that opportunities like this do not come around every day. In fact, the Nemadji Trail Energy Center (NTEC) will be the largest private investment in the history of Douglas County and will invest $1 billion in the region over 20 years.
A quick review of the Adopted County Budget released in January 2017 discusses the critical need for Douglas County to continue to invest in sustainable infrastructure, as well as pursuing economic development as listed in Priorities No. 1 and2 of the 2017 summary review. Douglas County and the city of Superior will share $1 million in revenue annually as a result of the gas plant being located here.
Also mentioned in the released budget is the fact that recent unemployment rates in Douglas County have climbed above state averages. The Nemadji Trail Energy Center will create 260 jobs during peak construction and provide up to 25 permanent full-time positions. That means some of our friends, family, and neighbors will be able to secure employment with good wages and have the opportunity to provide a better quality of life for their families.
Like most of us, I have watched our businesses close, our children grow up and move away, and even many of our working families fold their cards and strike out to other areas where there is more perceived opportunity. NTEC doesn't solve every problem we face, but it presents a huge investment and a step in the right direction for our community.
Balancing renewable energy to maintain reliable and safe energy during those times when solar and wind are not generating is the responsible thing to do. As Minnesota Power adds an additional 260 Megawatts of wind and solar energy, natural gas provides an optimal generation method for Minnesota Power to ensure the lights come when their customers flip a switch at all times — while being 65 percent less carbon intensive and emitting no mercury at all from the new gas plant. Prior to having spent the last six years working in the utility industry, I can tell you that I certainly took for granted that the power would just always be on when I needed it.
With the Wisconsin regulatory process regarding NTEC set to start in mid-2018 and the Minnesota regulatory process currently ongoing, I encourage you to reach out to regulators and express your support for this project. Consider reaching out to your friends and family on the Minnesota side and let them know why supporting the Nemadji Trail Energy Center is good for both sides of the bridge.
As we, the citizens and community leaders of Douglas County and Superior, lead our community into a brighter and more sustainable future, remember that we often overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate the difference we can make in five years. Help our community lay the groundwork for success by supporting the approval of this project.