Iowa county prepares for wind farm

Staci Schwickerath

Work on a 75-megawatt wind farm is under way in Floyd County.

“Things have come together very well up in Charles City and Floyd County,” said Tom Budler, general manager of wind development for MidAmerican Energy.

Budler said the utility company received a conditional use permit from the Floyd County Board of Adjustment last week to begin work on the wind farm that will include 50 turbines southwest of Charles City.

Each turbine will be about 260 feet tall, with blades spanning 126 feet. The turbines will take up approximately a fourth of an acre of land each and will produce about 1.5 megawatts of electricity. All turbines will be located in St. Charles Township.

A 75-megawatt wind farm can produce enough energy to power approximately 40,000 homes, according to Allan Urlis, media relations director for MidAmerican Energy.

The Des Moines-based utility company plans to have the turbines operational by April 2008.

Currently, roads are being created to the turbine sites. The concrete work and other infrastructure work will take place this fall. Floyd County residents will likely notice the General Electric turbines being shipped into the area from places such as California, South Carolina and Florida, in December.

Budler said Floyd County was selected for several reasons.

“It’s a nice fit within our transmission system,” he said.

The wind project manager said wind resource and transmission interconnection are the two primary issues MidAmerican considers when choosing where to build a wind farm.

According to Budler, the average wind speed in Floyd County seen by the company is 17 to 18 mph.

County Supervisor Warren Dunkel said he believes a wind energy ordinance put into place by the supervisors in February also lured the project to Floyd County.

“No. 1, you have got to have wind,” said Dunkel. “No. 2, you’ve got to have a power grid. No. 3 is willing farmers, and No. 4 — it certainly helps to have an ordinance that allows for tax incentives.”

Under the ordinance, wind energy producers receive a tax exemption on a 20-year sliding scale. In the first year of operation, the owner is taxed on zero percent of the net acquisition costs, adding 5 percent until year seven, when the rate would stay at 30 percent.

Dunkel said taxes on the wind farm after seven years will be more than $1,103,000 per year.

“The beauty of this thing is that it is economic development, it’s improving the tax base and gives more income for some of our farmers, one of the most important things,” Dunkel said.

The supervisor said the Tjaden family farms should be commended for pushing the county to implement a wind energy ordinance, and noted Bill Fluhrer encouraged wind power development in the area, as well.

Tim Fox, director of Charles City Area Development Corporation, agreed that the wind farm will benefit Floyd County.

“From a cost-benefit standpoint, it’s very good tax dollars with very little public investment,” he said. “The fast that there’s minimal disruption to public activity and no one has to borrow any money to leverage the tax dollars — you couldn’t ask for more.”

Fox added that a wind energy farm emphasizes Floyd County’s effort to be a “green” county. The county recently added an ethanol plant to its list of manufacturers and work is being done to clean a brownfield site where the Oliver plant was once located.

“We want to be a green county and we’re actually trying to do something about it,” Fox said.

Another incentive will be jobs created during the project and after its completion. Urlis estimated that 100 to 125 people will be working for subcontractors hired by MidAmerican to install the turbines and their bases. Once the wind farm is operational, he said five to seven people will be employed at the energy site.

The Floyd County wind farm is one of several projects currently underway by MidAmerican Energy, including a wind farm in Pocahontas County. In July, the company received approval from the Iowa Board of Utilities to add up to 540 megawatts in new wind energy generation.

According to MidAmerican, with its current and planned turbines, approximately 18 percent of its electric generation capacity will come from renewable sources.

Charles City Press