Recently, Invenergy Director of Communications Alissa Krinsky said, “Invenergy will host a public meeting regarding our proposed O’Brien County Wind Energy Project, with our development team leaders-Dani Zimmermann (Project Manager) and Kevin Parzyck (Vice President of Development)-in attendance and available to answer questions from local residents.
“We’re delighted to continue to work in O’Brien County with local landowners and officials, and other stake holders, towards development of this project. As a national leader in wind power generation, with an excellent wind resource, Iowa is an outstanding place to do business. Invenergy is pleased to propose a wind power generation facility that will be an investment in the economic future of the local area.”
Invenergy’s proposed O’Brien Wind Energy Project would be a 250 megawatt (MW) wind farm with 104 turbine sites located in northern O’Brien County. With the cost of wind energy pegged at $1.8 million per MW, the net acquisition cost for their 2nd wind farm could approach $450 million.
The proposed new wind farm will end up being a 50,000 acre project. So both the Highland Project under way and the new wind farm combined add up to about 120,000 acres with 318 wind turbines installed for a total of 760 megawatts of wind energy in operation by the end of 2016.
When Invenergy VP of Development Kevin Parzyck was at a January supervisors meeting, he noted the project’s narrow development and construction window.
“Our interconnection request on the electric grid is being evaluated in the transmission queue. If you don’t know, there was an extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for another year. So, construction has to be done by the end of 2016 to qualify for the tax credit. We have got the ability to meet that deadline. The timing is what makes this project desirable,” Parzyck reported then.
O’Brien County Wind Energy Device Ordinance # 22 stipulates, “Whenever a wind energy device, whether singularly or within a group of multiple wind energy devices, is proposed in the jurisdiction of O’Brien County the owner/developer is required to hold a public informational meeting on the proposed development.”
The location for the Tuesday, June 23rd landowner’s informational meeting was the Sanborn Community Center. During a 20-minute Q & A, Invenergy’s Parzyck detailed the project’s scope. Parzyck particularly noted the narrow construction window for getting this wind farm operational by Dec. 31, 2016.
“We’re having this public open house today as part of the county’s permit process. A lot of things, clearly, are going to be similar to what we did with the project that’s currently under construction, the Highland project. We look to be coming in to the supervisors with the permit application within the next couple of weeks to 30 days.
“The desire is to submit here in as timely a manner as we can. Our desire would be to mobilize for construction with the civil work, like the ground work, coming first this fall. This means access roads and driveway entrances, potentially cement foundation work and starting the under ground collection system. If weather permits, we hope to get in to do turbine site foundation work with the plan to start erecting turbines early next year,” Parzyck explained.
Regarding turbine procurement, Parzyck said, “We’re close to ordering the turbines but not quite there yet. We won’t pull the trigger until we have a construction permit in hand. We do have equipment in place to make us ready for next year. We sort of got a pipeline in place for this. It’s very likely that we’d order the turbines before the end of the year to be able to meet the manufacturing requirements.”
When asked about the MISO interconnection request, he said, “Our request is for a 250 MW wind farm. We can not go beyond that. As with the application for the Highland project, we’ll be going in with a certain number of turbine sites than will necessarily be used to give us the flexibility of having spare sites in case we run across problems with construction.”
While noting that it was August 20, 2013 when a public hearing was held in the courthouse assembly room for the Highland project permit, Parzyck was asked if those dates might coincide with their 2nd wind farm. “The dates could be very, very similar. It’s a very similar timeline to have this permit hearing in August,” Parzyck said. “All our other permits and documentation like from the FAA would also have to be in place. We are looking for a ‘No Hazard’ report from them.”
It appears that Tuesday, August 28th could be the earliest date for this public hearing. That date could allow for starting construction this fall as the harvest heats up and weather permits.
Are you looking at the same construction contractor that’s currently building the Highland project, Mortenson Construction? Parzyck was asked.
“Potentially, that would make a lot of sense. Obviously, that’s not firm yet because there needs to be some competition in the whole methodology. But that’s a very strong possibility. We’ve been talking to the county engineer and they’ve been pretty pleased with their work. They know what they’re doing.”
According to MidAmerican Energy, with emailed confirmation from the American Wind Energy Association, the Highland Wind Farm Project is the largest wind farm project currently under construction in the United States.
When asked if Invenergy is still signing additional landowners, Parzyck replied, “We are. We’ll continue to sign just to make sure there is as much participation as possible within the community. So, we continue to work with folks. We also need to make sure we have the most efficient connectivity between parcels like for power collection lines.”
When asked who’ll design the underground power collection system, Parzyck answered, “That’s done elsewhere. We have our engineer here doing the micro-siting of turbines and access roads. We will farm out the design of the underground cable system to a consulting engineer.
“Stantec Consulting Services Inc. again will compile the documentation necessary for the actual construction permit to the county. They’ve done it before. We’ve engaged them to work on the expanded studies. So, yes, they continue to be part of our team,” said Parzyck.
When asked where the wind farm interconnection substation would be located, Parzyck replied, “It will be near the new MidAmerican Energy switching substation northeast of Sanborn. It will be near the substation but to the east.”
E C Source is building that 9 acre switching substation northeast of Sanborn. From there a new 345 kV power line will go east to Kossuth County and then south to Webster County and terminate at MidAmerican’s Lehigh substation near Fort Dodge. T & D Power is currently building that new power line starting at Lehigh and then going north to Burt and then west to the new Lincoln Township switching substation.
When asked if Invenergy might consider developing a wind farm in the future near the MISO wind energy zone in Kossuth and Hancock Counties, Parzyck replied, “We’re always looking for new locations in Iowa. It’s been a great state to develop additional wind farms, so yes.”
Invenergy’s 2nd wind farm here would be their 3rd wind farm located in or near a MISO designated renewable energy zone. MISO is the independent transmission system operator that oversees the high voltage grid in 12 upper Midwest states. Six wind energy zones are located in Iowa with Minnesota having 3 along their southern border.
Once this wind farm is in operation, O’Brien County farmers from nearly 140, 000 acres of largely row crop farmland will harvest enough wind energy to transform it into 760 MW of power generation by the end of 2016.
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