One of the biggest proposed wind farm projects in the United States has been quietly progressing in rural Webster County.
Enxco, a company based in Minneapolis, Minn., has been laying the groundwork for the project over the last couple of years, speaking with landowners and local government officials.
“We already have two meteorological towers up that have been operating over the last couple of years,” said Josh Skogen, development manager with Enxco. “The next four will work to solidify our wind data.”
On Dec. 27, 2010, the Webster County Board of Adjustment gave the company the green light to erect the four additional meteorological towers west of Burnside for up to three years.
“The first two years were primarily site assessment, but now we are going further into development and seeking agency approval,” Skogen said.
He added that an area utility has expressed interest in the project, which prompted Enxco to bring a wind farm to full development in the area. Skogen declined to name the interested utility company.
MidAmerican Energy recently announced plans to build wind projects in four Iowa counties, including Calhoun County. On Dec. 28, 2010, Ann Thelen, MidAmerican spokeswoman, said the Des Moines-based company would purchase 258 wind turbines from Siemens Energy and expected them to be online by early 2012.
The proposed wind turbine project – if approved by local officials in the coming years – would bring 157 wind turbines spread across 1,400 acres in Webster County. The turbines would potentially generate 250 megawatts of energy, enough to power 80,000 homes a year.
Skogen said landowners who would be impacted have agreed to lease their land to Enxco.
“Our full intent is to minimize disturbances to farm activities,” Skogen said. “Each turbine, with the associated access road, takes up about one-half to one acre of land.”
Enxco chose Webster County for the project a couple of years ago for three reasons, according to Skogen:
state and local support for wind energy.
“Basically the existing meteorological towers tell us the site has great potential for generating wind electricity,” Skogen said.
Additionally, the high-voltage transmission lines in the area are already capable of carrying large amounts of energy, he added.
“We wouldn’t have to build additional transmission lines to put our facility online,” Skogen said. “Transmission is one of the biggest challenges facing the wind energy industry.”
If local officials approve the construction of the wind farm, an estimated 400 temporary construction jobs would be created along with 20 permanent jobs, such as an administrator and operation and maintenance employees, Skogen said.
No federal or local tax credits have been awarded to the company.
“We would be paying county taxes once it’s built, if it’s approved,” Skogen said. “We have not received any credits or subsidies at this point.”
The estimated cost of the proposed project is $350 million, and Skogen said, if everything is approved and goes as planned, the company hopes to have the wind farm operational as early as 2012.
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