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Company Expresses Interest In County’s Wind Energy Future

By Staff | Jan 4, 2016

A second renewable fuel company has come to Palo Alto County and a representative met with the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors at their regular meeting on Tuesday, December 8.

Representative Mark Zaccone from Invenergy was on hand to inform the Supervisors of the company’s plans for a wind farm in Palo Alto County and to give basic information about the renewable energy.

“Invenergy is the nation’s largest renewable resource developer. We do solar, wind, natural gas and storage. Storage would be large battery banks and I’ve only seen one and that is in Illinois. Some of our current projects in Iowa right now, we have a 100 megawatt (MW) operating system in Carrol County right now. Each turbine is two megawatts so there are approximately 50 turbines. Under construction in O’Brien County is a 500 MW project, which are 250 turbines. Next spring there is a project for an additional 200 MWs or 100 turbines, which would be 700 MWs total for O’Brien. That is a very large project and in the nation they generally don’t get that large,” Zaccone said.

“So these are not in the construction phase?” Supervisor Linus Solberg asked.

“In O’Brien County the are building right now,” Zaccone said, “and the additional turbines are set to be started next spring.”

“How long do the turbines last?” Solberg asked.

“Since the turbines are still fairly new, they are estimating 30 to 35 years,” Zaccone replied.

“What would go bad?” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked.

“I got a generic answer back, they do maintenance on them more than once a year, so they shouldn’t go bad to answer your question,” Zaccone responded. “You and I both know that at some point there is an end of useful life to these and it’s anywhere from that 25 to 35 years.”

“Or is that as long as the tax subsidy is?” Noonan asked.

“The tax subsidy is an immediate subsidy up front, all at once,” Zaccone explained.

“Something important about these projects, they are very long in nature and where we are at in Palo Alto is right at the beginning. It determined that Palo Alto, with MidAmerican upgrading their line, there would be more transmission capability.”

“The towers that are in O’Brien, are those going down that same line?” Supervisor Chair Craig Merrill asked.

“That I’m not sure of. I would have to look,” Zaccone said.

“I guess the reason I’m asking is how much room is on this line?” Merrill said.

“That’s part of the process and I will walk you though that,” Zaccone responded. “First they identify where there is wind and where they think is available transmission. There is good wind here and there appears to be available transmission.”

“The next phase is to see if there is actual support or not. As I told you they are currently out there starting to talk to landowners in this county and they need to get a certain amount of acres before they will request a full blown study on the transmission. That is one of the key factors if this goes forward or not. We can pick up a lot of acres and at the end of the day if there is no capacity, they can’t do it. So they look at different ways to route the energy as well.”

Zaccone went on to explain that Palo Alto County would be a 250 MW area, which is 125 turbines. They do put up metrological towers, which are 198 feet tall, and they are painted and the guidelines have air balls on them so they are seen.

It is important to note that according to Zaccone, landowners do not have to put their entire farm on an easement, they can do 20 acres is they wish. However, the company can put a turbine every 40 acres if they see the need.