The wind didn't exactly blow dollar bills through the door of the Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton, N.D. But two years after the monastery's Catholic sisters installed two windmills 100 feet high, their electric bill was cut almost in half for a savings of $18,000 in two years.


"We've been here for over 30 years, and the wind blows all the time," says Sister Paula Larson, prioress of the religious retreat and rest home. "We anticipate that the wind is going to continue to blow so that we should have a successful wind harvest every year."


The sisters, who expect to pay for the wind turbines in 10 years, talk about producing commercial wind energy as well from their 60-acre monastery site.


President Clinton has backed proposals requiring electric utilities to include renewable resources like windpower, but until that becomes law, the sisters can only sell to one source - their local electric co-op. Larson says that if windpower becomes mandatory as part of a utility's energy supply, blustery states like North Dakota could boom (HCN, 10/11/99).


"I think it's a good economic development potential for North Dakota, because a lot of family farms are going under, and wind is an excellent resource," says Larson.


* Eric Whitney