|By DOUG SCHMITZ
IOWA FALLS, Iowa — Iowa Winds LLC last month proposed plans to the Franklin County Zoning Board of Adjustment to construct what could be one of the nation’s largest wind farms, which would spread 200-300 megawatts across 40,000 acres of the north central Iowa country – and carry a $200 million price tag.
“This project should prove to be a tremendous leap forward in positioning Iowa as a leader in wind energy production,” said Karen Mitchell, Franklin County Development Assoc. executive director about the creation of the wind farm, pending approval of the project at this week’s zoning board meeting.
“One needs to recognize it speaks volumes about the visionary investors we have in this area who recognize the value of renewable assets and the forward-thinking county government we have in place ready to assist (in) this project,” she said.
Established in 2002 by a group of Iowa Falls investors, Iowa Winds, LLC has partnered with the San Diego, Calif.-based Eurus Energy America Corp., one of the world’s oldest and diverse wind developers, for technical and project support.
Eurus, which also has offices in London and Tokyo, has ownership interest in more than 1,200 mega-watts globally.
In addition to Eurus, Iowa Winds also has partnered with Alliant WindConnect, a division of Alliant Energy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for assistance with development, design, engineering and construction. Currently, Alliant WindConnect has 18 wind projects in 13 states, totaling over 1,600 mega-watts.
“These investors realized there may be a potential for wind energy generation in Franklin County and thus proposed the Franklin County Wind Farm,” said Amber Schwarck, spokesperson for Iowa Winds, LLC. Schwarck said the Iowa Falls, Iowa-based company had chosen Franklin County based on its exceptional wind resource area.
“Franklin County is home to many ridges, which made this county a prime home for a wind farm,” she said. “Iowa Winds has been conducting meteorological studies in southern Franklin County for three years and the data that has resulted shows promising wind resources.
“Franklin County’s geographic positioning, coupled with a rich heritage of conservation practices, makes this an ideal location for such a substantial project and a strategic location for vendor and ancillary businesses,” she added.
Depending on approval of the permits and the county’s power grid system, the project would be constructed near Bradford, Iowa and involve 193 landowners in the townships of Grant, Hamilton, Ingham, Lee, Morgan, Oakland and Reeves. Mike Nolte, chair of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors, said the zoning board would be reviewing and voting on the 193 conditional use permits on Sept. 14.
“The Franklin County Board of Supervisors and Franklin County Zoning Department have been working for several months with Iowa Winds,” he said. “We have passed zoning ordinances that relate to wind farms because we did not have any. We have adopted the property tax structure set forth by the state of Iowa for wind farms.”
If the Franklin County Wind Farm is approved, construction would begin next spring and be completed by spring 2008.
“Big projects like this will draw attention to our county and help bring more economic development to us,” Nolte said. “The farmers are very excited about this because it gives them more revenue for their operations from rental payments.
“The Franklin County Board of Supervisors are pleased that Iowa Winds have chosen Franklin County for this project,” he said.
“It’s not very often you have someone who wants to make a $200 million investment in the county. That’s a huge investment. It’s just a win-win for the county.”
According to the American Wind Energy Assoc. (AWEA), Iowa ranks third in the U.S. in wind power generation, next to California’s 2,323 megawatts and Texas’ 2,400 megawatts. The AWEA said the Franklin County Wind Farm would help Iowa keep pace with these states and create 30-40 technical jobs.
In addition, Iowa ranks 10th in the nation in wind energy potential, according to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Iowa produces 836 megawatts of electricity from its existing 900 wind turbines, which the AWEA estimated powers about 226,000 homes. To date, U.S. wind energy installations exceed 10,000 megawatts in generating capacity and produce enough electricity on a typical day to power more than 2.5 million homes, with a megawatt of wind power generating enough to serve 250-300 average homes.
The AWEA said demand for the popular energy source and concerns over fuel price volatility and supply was driving the record growth in wind power, which was made possible by the renewal of the production tax credit (PTC), a federal incentive extended in the Energy Policy Act that President Bush signed last year.
This farm news was published in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.