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Wind Energy Project Updates Potential Partners

By Staff | Jul 7, 2017

Well over 90 landowners and residents attended a public meeting by Invenergy on Tuesday, June 20 as part of the pre-application process for the proposed Palo Alto Wind Energy Project. The project area spans approximately 60,000 acres of private land in northeast Palo Alto County in the Townships of Independence, Fairfield, Freedom and Vernon.

“We will tie into the MidAmerican powerline that runs across the northern part of the County,” Kevin Parzck, Head of Wind and Solar Project Development for the Midwest, began. “We are looking at 170 turbines within the project area that will produce 340MW (megawatts) of electricity.”

“Revenue generated by the project once complete will generate $3.8 million per year after year seven and $140 million over the lifetime of the project,” Parzck continued. “During construction, there will be 200 additional jobs bringing additional revenue into the County and 10 to 15 permanent jobs will be created.”

During the meeting questions were raised on several issues from property taxes to eagles nests to decommissioning.

“The County Supervisors established an ordinance in 2016, which sets the procedures we (Invenergy) must follow,” Parzeck said. “They covered setbacks, shadow flicker and sound, as well as many other concerns of the citizens of Palo Alto County have.”

“This informational meeting is just one of our (Invenergy) responsibilities before we can apply for a Conditional Use Permit and file a targeted site plan,” Parzck went on to say. “We have been doing studies on shadow flicker and sound level and a report on these must be filed at the time the application is submitted. Also, there is a list of agencies, both federal and state, which we are required to contact prior to submitting an application.”

“So the projected timeline of the Palo Alto Wind Energy Project is: the Development Phase (which is where the project is currently) will take 2015-2017. The Construction Phase will run 2017-2018 and sometime in 2018-2019, the project will become Operational. Once we reach the Commercial Operation Phase, we will be turning the project over to MidAmerican Energy.”

The Wind Energy Conversion Systems Ordinance for Palo Alto County clearly lays out setbacks at either 1,500 feet or one and a half time the height of the tower (this is from the highest point of a propeller blade) from roads, permanent residential dwellings, property lines, non-residential dwellings, cemeteries and city limits.

Shadow flicker is limited to no more than 30 hours per year of any non-participating permanent residential dwelling. The sound level cannot exceed 50 db (decibels).

Also included in the ordinance are damages to roads or tile and a section related to decommissioning. There will be a separate contract with Secondary Roads for damage and the Decommissioning of old or abandoned towers. Anyone that would like to view the Wind Energy Conversion Systems Ordinance can find it online at the county’s website under Board of Supervisors.

The question regarding aerial spraying was raised during the meeting. According to Parzck, landowners/farmers who anticipate aerial spraying of their fields will be able to contact MidAmerican Energy to have the propellers stopped and turned if necessary to allow airplanes to fly within the project area.

“It’s all about communication,” Parzck said.

There is a separate agreement for decommissioning. The cost of removal of each tower must be anticipated and engineers at Invenergy look at the anticipated cost of removal. This money is set aside and some form of financial assurance (letter of credit, bond or the money placed in escrow) will be provided to the County. This anticipated cost of removal is reviewed every few years to keep up with inflation.

The wind project will bring revenue into the County in the form property taxes on each turbine. The landowner is not responsible for these taxes. The taxes on turbines will be the responsibility of the Owner.

With Bald Eagles in the area, the question was raised regarding setbacks from an Eagle’s nest. According to Parzck, Invenergy deals with three federal statutes: Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Along with these federal statutes, individual state agencies are also involved. There are specific setbacks from flyways and nesting areas that must be adhered to.

“There are no Eagles nests within our Project area,” Parzck assured.

With further discussion, Parzck pointed out that the next step would be to apply for a permit and file a site plan with the Zoning Administrator, Joe Neary. Neary would then present the application and all paperwork required by the Ordinance to the Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors would then have 60 days in which to hold a public meeting and are required by the Ordinance to render a decision within 30 days of their public hearing date.

“All of the steps must be met in order to get our application to build approved,” Parzch noted. “It’s a long process to make sure we have done everything we are required to do.”