In Minn. and Iowa, construction company creates hundreds of renewables jobs

Mortenson Construction has deep roots in building wind farms. Founded by M.A. Mortenson Sr. in 1954, the company branched into the renewable energy industry in 1995 and was among the first major construction firms to venture into renewable energy facility construction.

“We believed there was high potential for growth in what was then a very small market segment with few players in the industry,” said Jerry Grundtner, vice president of project development for Mortenson Renewable Energy Division.

That growth has come to fruition. Today, Mortenson employs more than 2,200 workers, including 350 in its renewable energy branch.

So far the company has built, or is in the process of building, more than 125 wind projects. Combined, Mortenson has erected nearly 8,000 wind turbines, adding over 13,000 megawatts of clean energy capacity, enough to power nearly 50,000 homes.

Beyond wind, Mortenson’s Renewable Energy Division also works on the construction of solar, emerging renewables, and high-voltage transmission and distribution facilities.

Iowa was the site of the company’s first wind farm, and the state has significantly benefitted from Mortenson’s projects. In March 2012, Mortenson began construction on the 103.5-megawatt Vienna Wind Project in Marshall and Tama counties. When the project is complete, Mortenson will have helped install more than 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity in Iowa, or nearly half the state’s total wind power capacity. Almost 19 percent of Iowa’s electricity comes from wind energy.

In addition to Iowa, Mortenson has 14 total projects currently under construction in states like Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas, and Iowa. These projects are helping boost the economies of local communities.

“A given project can generate millions of dollars to the local economy based on new job creation, and construction-related goods and services,” Grundtner said.

While the majority of Mortenson’s projects are in the U.S., the firm also works internationally in Canada and China.

This report originally appeared in the Sept. 2012 NRDC publication “American Wind Farms: Breaking Down the Benefits from Planning to Production.”