MG&E will invest $56 million in project; Sun Prairie company signs 20-year deal
Two Wisconsin electric utilities on Wednesday signed agreements to tap power for their customers from a wind farm under development in north central Iowa.
Madison Gas & Electric Co. said it plans to invest $56 million to buy 18 wind turbines and develop a portion of the Top of Iowa Phase II wind power project. The utility signed a contract with Midwest Renewable Energy Projects LLC, the developer of the project near Mason City, Iowa.
The Madison-based utility said the deal would enable about 5% of the utility’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources. That would be enough for MG&E to comply three years ahead of schedule with the first phase of the state’s first renewable power mandate.
A law that the Legislature passed this year requires Wisconsin utilities to secure 10% of their electricity from wind turbines and other renewable energy sources by 2015.
Also Wednesday, Sun Prairie-based Wisconsin Public Power Inc. said it plans to buy power from the Iowa project under a 20-year deal with a subsidiary of Midwest Renewable Energy. Financial terms of that deal are confidential, WPPI spokeswoman Anne Rodriguez said.
In total, the Top of Iowa project is expected to consist of 67 wind turbines across 7,000 acres of farmland.
Scott Neitzel, vice president of energy supply policy at MG&E, said the company seized on the opportunity to be involved with this project at a time when wind power projects have faced delays because developers face a waiting list from manufacturers for wind turbines and are racing to have projects online by late 2007 to become eligible for federal tax credits.
“This was a good opportunity for us to see a project that could get done in a timeframe that allowed us to take advantage of the tax credits which are set to expire at the end of 2007, so we pursued it aggressively,” he said.
Both WPPI and MG&E are potential partners in the Forward Wind Energy Center that Chicago-based Invenergy plans to build in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties, in the Horicon area.
But that project has run into delays because of a recently lifted federal moratorium on wind projects in the Upper Midwest. Also opposition has come from a group that opposes construction of the project based on concerns that the turbines will be located too close to the Horicon Marsh, a national wildlife refuge. The developer has conducted studies that have concluded that the number of birds that would be killed by rotating blades atop the wind towers wouldn’t be significant.
MG&E, which built the state’s first wind farm in 1999 in Kewaunee County, grew impatient waiting for other projects to move ahead.
“We had seen so many potential projects from wind facilities not come to fruition that we though the best way for us to get this power for our customers . . . at least in this project, was to own the turbines and the development rights, and build and operate it ourselves,” Neitzel said.
Iowa wind farms can generate power more of the time than wind power projects in Wisconsin because the winds blow more often and at higher speeds there.
The Iowa project, WPPI’s Rodriguez said, “was cost-effective versus other renewable resources that are available today and the cost is lower than wind projects that we are aware of in Wisconsin.”
By Thomas Content
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