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Johnson County eyes wind development regulations

A wind developer’s plans to install at least 10 commercial wind turbines is prompting Johnson County to update its land use regulations.

PNE Wind USA has been securing leases on 3,000 acres of farm ground for a 30-megawatt wind development east of Solon. The Johnson County Board of Adjustment approved a conditional use permit in November to allow PNE Wind to erect an anemometry tower to record wind currents in the area. The 198-foot-tall tower will be located just east of Highway 1 off 210th Street, about one mile south of Solon.

The company is serious about developing the wind project, according to Keith Kurtz, project developer.

The Johnson County Supervisors have expressed support for development of renewable energy resources that will reduce the county’s contribution to carbon emissions, according to R.J. Moore, assistant director of the county’s Planning and Zoning Department. The county has never developed land use regulations specifically addressing wind developments, Moore said, because the level of interest in wind development never warranted the investment in staff time.

The only wind developments to date have been individual wind turbines installed by land owners. They have been approved by the county’s board of adjustment applying the same standards used for broadcast towers.

The standards “aren’t quite applicable, though, for wind generating facilities,” Moore said.

Johnson County Planning and Zoning Administrator Rick Dvorak said the county is seeking guidance in the form of the existing ordinances enacted by other Iowa counties that have wind energy developments or wind energy potential.