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Wind energy advancing across Iowa

Webster County wind project is on schedule

August 8, 2011
By LINDSEY MUTCHLER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Row crops are normally all that populate Don Sandell's field at 300th Street and Nelson Avenue.

However, for the last year a meteorological tower has measured the wind speeds on Sandell's farm as enXco Development Corporation of Minneapolis, Minn., develops the site into a wind farm.

Sandell's land is one parcel scattered across 1,400 acres south of Fort Dodge that will see 157 wind turbines erected in 2012, according to Shanelle Evens, landowner and community coordinator supervisor with enXco.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
This tower, in place to monitor wind conditions, is in place near Nelson Avenue and 300th Street south of Otho.

"As we had anticipated, our met towers have confirmed the project area has a tremendous wind resource," Evens said. "The great wind resource will be one of the variables which will ensure a very economical project."

The company is on schedule to begin erecting turbines as early as 2012, she added, depending on weather conditions and customer negotiations.

Sandell, for one, said he's pleased to be a part of the project.

Fact Box

At a glance:

Iowa is ranked second in the U.S. in most installed wind capacity.

The Iowa 4th Congressional District is third in the nation for installed capacity.

Iowa wind farms now online power the equivalent of more than 900 homes.

According to a resource assessment from the National Renewable Energy Lab, Iowa's wind resource could provide 44 times the state's current electricity needs.

Total direct and indirect jobs supported in 2010: 4,000-5,000

Annual property tax payments by wind project owners: $16.5 million

Annual land lease payments: $11 million

-Information from American Wind Energy Association

"Why not?" he asked. "It's not that intrusive, and there's a significant compensation for doing it."

Sandell said it's not just the economic benefit that landowners will receive for leasing their land to house the turbines, but also the larger Webster County community.

"There's a number of reasons," Sandell said of why he's in favor of the project. "It's clean energy. It's good jobs for the area. It's good tax revenues for the county, and good payments for landowners. There are a lot of economic benefits for the whole area."

If local county officials approve the construction of the wind farm, an estimated 400 temporary construction jobs would be created along with 20 permanent jobs, such as administrator and operation and maintenance employees.

Sandell said he realizes wind energy won't solve all of the country's energy problems, but he believes it's an important piece of the puzzle.

"If we can be a part of it, great," he said.

The wind energy industry has grown in Iowa over the years. The American Wind Energy Association announced Aug. 4 that Iowa generated 20 percent of its electricity from wind from January to April of 2011.

Nationally, wind energy remains ahead of schedule to generate 20 percent of America's electricity by 2030, a goal identified by the U.S. Department of Energy under the George W. Bush Administration.

The Lundgren Project - the official name for the wind project in Webster County - will have the potential capacity to generate 250 megawatts of energy, enough to power approximately 80,000 homes a year.

Evens said the location in Webster County is also positioned near high-voltage transmission lines to carry the electricity, which are operated by Midwest Independent Systems Operator. Transmission is one of the biggest hurdles facing the wind industry, according to Johnathan Hladik, with the Center for Rural Affairs.

"The idea is that we have really abundant wind resources, but we can't develop them without more transmissions," Hladik said.

There are private investors and utilities working to overcome the problem, one is Clean Lines Energy Partners based in Houston, Texas. The company held an open house at Humboldt County Fairgrounds in June about a proposed 500-mile transmission project that would run across north central Iowa.

Hladik argued wind energy is becoming more reliable as more projects get online. He cited a study completed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that concluded up to 40 percent of electricity demand can be met by wind without adversely impacting grid reliability.

"With adequate transmission, the wind is blowing somewhere at some time," Hladik said. "With enough turbines online ... there's some place you can tap which can make wind reliable."

There would be a need for a backup system similar to coal power plants, which rely on natural gas as a back up.

"The ideal situation would be to rely on wind, with natural gas as a reserve," Hladik said.

MidAmerican Energy is also expanding its wind energy portfolio in six counties, including Calhoun and Pocahontas.

"I can tell you, from a company perspective, we're always looking for options to expand our renewable energy portfolio," said Tina Pothoff, media relations manager for MidAmerican.

The expansion of the Rolling Hills Wind project in Cass, Adair and Adams counties includes the construction of 193 wind turbines that will produce 593 megawatts of energy.

In the Pocahontas and Calhoun counties, Pothoff said the company added 13 wind turbines to the existing 171 in the area.

Once all projects in the six counties are complete 26 percent of MidAmerican's total owned generation capacity will come from wind, she added.

Contact Lindsey Mutchler at (515) 573-2141 or



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