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Highland II Wind Farm in advanced developmental phase

PRIMGHAR – O’Brien County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Kiana Johnson reported last week to county officials and others that Invenergy intends to build the Highland II Wind Energy Center in Lincoln, Franklin and Summit Townships.

Johnson said that Invenergy project developer Erin Brush reported their updated information. Invenergy has maintained an office in Primghar since August 20, 2013 when the construction permit for the 500 megawatt (MW) Highland project was approved. Invenergy has since been seeking easements further north in the county.

According to reports, Invenergy recently acquired Eurus Energy’s Hawkeye Point Wind Farm leases and combined those leases with ones Invenergy has obtained.

Eurus Energy is a North American subsidiary of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and Toyota Tsusho Corporation (Toyota Tsusho) from Japan. Headquartered in San Diego, Eurus America develops wind and solar energy. Eurus Energy has been active in wind energy development in the U. S. since 1987.

Eurus came to O’Brien County in 2007 & 2008 and talked to landowners in the three townships surrounding Sanborn.

These developments led to the initial Highland II discussion at the Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 supervisors meeting. Johnson also reported that Invenergy intended to come to the Board in early 2015 and apply for the Highland II construction permit.

During this discussion, county auditor Barb Rohwer also asked about re-convening the county’s wind energy committee. Rohwer said she’d emailed Steve Hallgren at the Northwest Iowa Planning & Development Commission to see when he had time available to meet.

Hallgren would also be addressing his recently finished language changes to the county’s wind energy ordinance after input was taken from landowners at an earlier Oct. 7th public hearing.

At that Tuesday, Oct. 7th supervisor’s hearing, landowners provided input into an early draft of the proposed language changes. Wind Ordinance #22 was initially created and approved in 2010. The County had previously instructed Hallgren to tighten up the definitions so it was more understandable and couldn’t be misinterpreted.

Sanborn landowner and former county supervisor John Haack asked DeBoom at that Oct. 7th hearing, “What do you see as the major changes to the original ordinance? How is that changed? Buffering and all that I understand. That’s not a problem. Have we changed distances? What, significantly, is changed, if anything?”

DeBoom replied, “The big change was to make sure we had something in there like for electrical substations that we didn’t have before. The rest of the ordinance was pretty wordy in places. We kind of cleaned it up so it’s more understandable.”

“How many wind turbines are they looking at?” asked Dan Friedrichsen.

“140,” replied Rohwer.

“Will these all go into that new substation up there, I assume?” Friedrichsen asked.

“No,” replied Rohwer.

“Will they have to build their own substation then?” asked Friedrichsen.

“Remember, that substation, that’s a switchyard,” Rohwer reminded everyone.

DeBoom indirectly referred to the Clean Line Energy DC wind energy power line project and a Siemens AC to DC converter station still under consideration for Section 6, Center Township, 4 miles SW of the MidAmerican Energy AC switching substation. Surveying for that new 9.19 acre switching substation site is done.

Meteorological evaluation towers (MET) in that area have been recording wind speed data for some time. One MET is located in Summit Township SW of Sanborn. Another MET tower is located in Lincoln Township NE of Sanborn.

In a Thursday, Dec. 11th email statement from Invenergy’s Chicago office, early information about Highland II was officially made public.

Invenergy Vice President, Development Kevin Parzyck said, “As a national leader in wind power generation, with an excellent wind resource, Iowa is an outstanding place to do business. We’re delighted to continue to work in O’Brien County with local landowners and officials, and other stakeholders, toward development of the Highland II Wind Energy Center (“Highland II”).

Based out of an office in Primghar, Invenergy team members are working with area landowners who are interested in participating in the project. In addition, Invenergy recently purchased a number of local land easements that were signed several years ago with another wind energy developer. With the combined footprint afforded by these land agreements, Highland II is planned as a 250 MW facility, to be sited across approximately 60,000 acres, primarily in Franklin, Lincoln and Summit Townships in O’Brien County.

Engineering efforts and project studies continue in order to finalize the project’s layout. Construction could begin as early as next year, with a specific timeline still to be determined. According to Mike Prior with the Iowa Wind Energy Association (IWEA), the estimated cost of building new wind energy is generally pegged at $1.8 million per MW in 2014. That wind energy cost estimate figure was at $2 million per MW in 2012. So, the estimated cost of the 250 MW Highland II project could total $450 million.

In a late development, county auditor Rohwer said that the county’s wind committee met on Thursday, Dec. 11th and reviewed the language changes that Hallgren had made to Ordinance No. 22, the O’Brien County Wind Energy Device Ordinance. Rohwer reported that a hearing is set for Jan. 13, 2015. These ordinance language changes are a direct result of the contentious Highland wind farm substation discussions back in March, April and May. That facility is nearing completion.

Rohwer also reported that the wind committee did discuss the recent news that Invenergy is proposing to build Highland II in the northern part of the county.