YARMOUTH – Conditions look promising for the development of a 200-megawatt wind farm in southeast Iowa.
“It’s in a fairly early stage of development, but we feel good about it. We like the wind resource. We like the community. We feel like we have been received well in the community, that is very important. We are moving forward with the development of that project,” said Stephen Peluso, vice president of origination for San Diego, Calif.-based enXco Inc.
Through its subsidiary, Power Partners Midwest, enXco has signed wind rights easements and windpark lease agreements for about 8,700 acres of land in northwest Des Moines County and southwestern Louisa County. Most of it is in Des Moines County.
The company could need up to 15,000 acres for the project, Peluso said.
A subsidiary of the international renewable energy company EDF Energies Nouvelles, enXco has four operational projects in Iowa and another five under development, Peluso said.
There is no timeline for bringing the southeast Iowa project to fruition because the company must first find a utility to buy generated electricity, Peluso said.
“As far as where do we see it going, the difficult part of that equation is to identify a long-term off-take contract for the energy from that project. That is the big issue facing any (wind) project under development, finding a utility that has a need for the energy to sign a long-term power supply agreement with us. And that can take a long time,” said Peluso, whose office is in Minneapolis.
The number of towers in the wind farm would vary depending on the size of the turbines. If enXco uses two-megawatt turbines, a common size for wind farms, 100 towers would be needed to reach 200 megawatts.
Peluso could not say what the final investment would be, but it is not uncommon for up to $1 million to be spent to bring such projects to the marketable stage.
Depending on the end buyer’s preference, enXco could either sell rights to the entire farm or retain ownership and sell the electricity and renewable attributes.
The project would be linked to the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator power lines, which would allow electricity to be sold to any utility company in the upper Midwest.
Once a buyer is identified, the facility could be constructed in a year or two, Peluso said.
Currently, the only physical indication of enXco’s plans is a handful of meteorological towers being used to measure wind velocities, said Mitch Taeger, a deputy Des Moines County assessor.
The company has signed about 45 windpark lease agreements and wind rights easement agreements with landowners in northwest Des Moines County ranging over 6,830 acres, according to the county assessor’s office.
In Louisa County, about a dozen such agreements covering about 1,860 acres have been signed and documented at the Louisa County Recorder’s office.
The agreements were signed between November 2009 and December of this year.
Peluso declined to say how much landowners were offered in the lease agreements, but said the amount is within the industry standard.
A boilerplate land lease agreement for an enXco wind project in Indiana offered landowners $10 per acre annually during the pre-operating period of the project. Once the wind farm begins operations, the landowners receive $3,500 per megawatt capacity installed on the property. Those figures also are within the industry standard, Peluso said.
The Indiana contract is listed on the website www.wind-watch.org, which is maintained by National Wind Watch, an organization opposed to the construction of industrial-scale wind farms.
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