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Utility gets OK to build Iowa wind farm; WPS customers would pay $54 million of cost

Wisconsin Public Service Corp. won approval from state regulators to build a wind farm in Iowa to help comply with a state mandate to increase its supply of renewable power.

The Crane Creek wind farm in Howard County, Iowa, is estimated to cost $251 million, and it will help the utility comply with a requirement that 2% of its power come from renewable sources. The mandate comes from a state law requiring utilities to sell more renewable power to their customers.

The approval means that WPS customers will be asked to pay higher prices than those the utility announced this month. WPS had earlier sought to raise rates by $107 million, or nearly 8%, in 2009. But wind farm costs are expected to add another $20 million to customers’ bills in 2009 and $34 million in 2010, WPS said in a filing with state regulators.

Members of the Public Service Commission said during a meeting Friday that WPS was taking the proper steps to comply with state renewable-energy mandates. State law requires that utilities boost their supply of power from wind turbines, solar panels and landfill and manure-to-energy systems in 2012 and again in 2015.

By 2015, under state law, 10% of the state’s electricity must be generated from renewable power sources.

WPS said it opted to build a wind farm in Iowa rather than Wisconsin because the winds are stronger there, enabling more power to be generated by each turbine.

The Crane Creek project, which still faces regulatory approvals in Iowa, would consist of 66 turbines over 29 acres. The project would be built in 2009 by enXco, a subsidiary of EdF (√Člectricit√© de France) Group, then sold to WPS.

The approval came a day after WPS announced another deal to buy renewable power outside Wisconsin. The utility plans to spend more than $2 billion to buy a long-term supply of power generated by dams Manitoba Hydro plans to build in northern Manitoba in 2018 and 2020.

By Thomas Content

Journal Sentinel

18 April 2008