A mega wind farm is being planned in Iowa, US at a cost of not less than one billion dollars. It is to employ 335 generators and produce up to 500 MW of power. Each generator will be able to power 500 to 1,000 homes.
The generators will each be at least 1,000 feet apart, and property owners in the vicinity will receive rent for use of wind rights.
Project details haven't been finalized, however, and the number of wind generators will ultimately depend on success in leasing property rights.
The average wind speed over a year's period in Iowa is 14 to 16 m.p.h. Though the average wind speed is greater in northwestern Iowa, Washington County offers flatter terrain and a fewer number of trees. Hence the farm is to be situated there.
Two wind testing sites are currently being used in the county, with both recording wind speeds every 15 minutes.
The project is massive, says Tim Wichman, leasing manager for Kansas-based Trade Wind Energy (TWE), one of the country's largest developer and manager of wind energy.
The actual number of wind generators depends upon the success in leasing property rights from area owners. The estimated cost of the project could reach $1 billion if all 335 wind generators are built, which would produce more than $1 million per year in leasing rights for property owners and $3 million to $4 million in new property taxes for Washington County and the involved school districts. Each generator costs about $2.25 million.
An estimated 150 construction workers would be needed for the project, many of them from the area. He noted that each generator tower requires 400 cubic yards of concrete. Approximately 10 to 15 permanent maintenance employees would also be required.
Wichman has been working in the county since March of 2008. He and Randy Grant have been personally contacting the approximate 600 property owners within the target area.
No generators would be closer together than 1,000 feet and each would take two acres. Nearby property owners would also receive rent for use of their wind rights.
The generators will not be fenced. Since there is nothing livestock can hurt at the sites, cows could graze right up to the tower bases.
Once a number of the 40-year leases have been signed, as well as a wind study completed, TWE will be negotiating an electrical power purchase agreement with a utility company such as Mid-American Energy.
Wichman said he is very confident that the project will be going ahead, pointing out that TWE has already spent a great deal of money in Washington County and some leases are already signed.
Area farmers have been very receptive, said Wichman. "I'm having fun," he said of his job. "So far everyone in Washington County has been great." He says construction should begin within three to five years. It takes two years to erect a generator.
Washington County also offers another very important factor in the process of choosing a site for the wind generators - high voltage transmission lines crossing the county, Kalona News reports. Wind generators are useless, observed Wichman, if there are no transmission lines to carry the power to the electrical grid.
Besides providing additional income for area farmers, jobs and an increased tax base for the county, there will be another added benefit - road and bridge improvements at no cost to tax payers. Wichman said that any upgrading needed for rural roads and bridges during the construction phase will be paid for by TWE. This includes widening, additional gravel and possible paving for some roads, as well as bringing bridges up to the needed weight restrictions.
The next step will be to begin the design work and laying out the underground power line routes. That is just the beginning. TWE will also have to complete a number of other environmental and archeological studies.
The company has similar projects in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Texas.
TWE has one other wind farm project in Iowa. It is located in Poweshiek County and will produce approximately 200 megawatts of electrical power.
TWE is a subsidiary of Enel, Italy's largest power company and Europe's second listed utility by installed capacity. The company produces and sells electricity and gas across Europe and North and Latin America.