MUSCATINE, Iowa – The first reading of a proposed ordinance involving wind energy was unanimously approved by the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors Monday night.
The proposal stemmed from a project being undertaken in West Liberty. City Manager Lawrence McNaul said the city is partnering with West Liberty Foods to find renewable sources of energy. The city is working with Bluestem Energy Solutions, out of Omaha, Nebraska, to design a wind turbine system and find an appropriate location. The city approached the county about the project.
Currently Muscatine County has no regulations regarding the development of a wind energy project.
The county’s Planning and Zoning director Eric Furnas prepared a scoring system which would help determine the impact of a wind turbine project including the effects of taking land out of crop production.
The proposed wind energy application is similar to the form used by the county for special use permits for rural residences.
A special use permit would be granted after review by the Board of Adjustment in the agricultural and light and heavy industrial zoning districts.
A public hearing on the proposed wind energy conversion ordinance was held Monday night prior to the board vote.
The turbines, which Furnas said may be used to supplement energy in West Liberty, are the first to be brought up to the county, which is why no such ordinance currently exists. This ordinance would be a precautionary measure for the county, should other requests like the turbines arise, according to Furnas.
Furnas said the board needed to consider the impact on area roads during the construction phase, the impact on nearby residential communities as well as the corn suitability rating or CSR. Iowa’s CSR was initially developed in 1971 as an index method to rate different kinds of soils for their potential row-crop productivity. The CSR rating system is designed to rate one soil’s yield potential against another over time. It assigns a point system that has each soil start at 100 and then deductions are made for different factors such as land condition, slope, water and climate.
West Liberty has its own electric municipal utility.
According to Tom Swierczewski, director of development services with Bluestem, the company partners with local municipalities for co-ops and do small projects with two or four wind turbines.
Technological advancements, price declines and federal tax credits have made smaller projects like West Liberty’s feasible.
Bluestem was founded in 2008. The company acts as the developer, financier owner, and operator.
The ordinance must be voted on three times before becoming law.
Supervisors also set 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 8 as the date and time for a public hearing concerning the sale of the Optimae LifeServices building, 3500 Harmony Court, to Tom Meeker of Muscatine.
Optimae will be moving into the former Garfield Elementary School building at 1409 Wisconsin St. in the fall. Garfield is also owned by Meeker.
Optimae LifeServices, an employee-owned company, has been providing services for individuals with disabilities in Muscatine County for 15 years, since May 1, 2001. Its programs, which include community-based and home health services, are designed to encourage choice, empowerment, and community integration.
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