With things rolling along for Iowa County’s wind turbine project and response being generally positive, the project is about to enter a new phase.
Mark Zaccone, representing Invenergy, told the Iowa County Board of Supervisors Friday, Jan. 27, that this phase calls for the company to slow down on generating land and to begin long-term studies. These include engineering and transmission studies, as well as marketing the project.
In doing so, Invenergy will be pulling its Iowa County land agents, who are based out of an office in Marengo. The company, at least its land agents, will not have a presence here in the near term, and no date has been set for when they will return, and the office will be “go dark.”
Letters from the Chicago-based wind energy firm informing landowners about the company’s plans have been sent.
“We’re not packing the tent and leaving town,” Zaccone stressed. “We’re just focusing on other projects that are higher in the queue. We just sold one that we’re going to announce pretty soon and another is pretty close and another that’s got some interest.”
Indeed, he recounted successes to this point for the proposed project, which would be about 250 megawatts and involve about 125 turbines, all located roughly along MidAmerican Energy’s 345 kilovolt line that runs in southern Iowa County. Roughly, the area is Dayton, English, Lincoln and Pilot townships, bordered by 230th and 320th streets to the north and south, and C and M avenues to the west and east.
About half of the required acres have been spoken for in terms of what is needed to build the wind turbines in the county. Two meteorological towers, which are meant to be temporary, have been constructed and will be used for data collection.
Zaccone, who plans to return with updates, said that property owners with whom Invenergy has requested easements will still get their payments.
One resident came with a few questions, including who will pay for the taxes on the turbines and who is responsible.
“There’s no turbines yet so there’s no taxes, but the easement (agreement) says we’ll pay for the taxes if they are assessed taxes on the turbines,” said Zaccone, adding that the company either pays the county directly, or the landowner if they happen to be assessed. “The net to the farmer is zero.”
The landowner asked what happens if the turbines are one day dismantled. Zaccone says the easements are 25 years with options for 10 year extension, and if they at one point decide to remove the turbines, they enter into an agreement with the county for escrow money, to be used for decommissioning the turbines.
Another questions centered on whether the company could compel a landowner to sell to allow utility access. Zaccone replied that, as Invenergy is not a public utility, if a landowner were to refuse the company would need to find another route. The landowner also had questions about depth of transmission lines, noting concerns of it being placed too shallow into the ground.
According to its website, Invenergy specializes in wind, solar, and natural gas-fueled power generation and energy storage facilities in North America, and is among the six largest owners of wind generation plants in the United States. The company has a 50-turnbine project underway in Carroll County in western Iowa, and projects in Adair, Ida and O’Brien counties in western and northwestern Iowa.
Mud wires that usually are gravel roads, due to the warmer-than-normal January, have persisted throughout much of Iowa, and Iowa County has not been immune.
But the county engineer’s office has taken a proactive approach toward keeping the roads passable, as secondary roads departments spend their mornings smoothing out the ruts and layering rock on the county’s gravel roads.
County engineer Nick Amelon said his secondary roads department was the only county in a six-county area to haul rock early this week – that is until Thursday, Jan. 26, when other counties began their work. Usually crews went out early in the morning, when it is still cold enough for the roads to freeze and heavy equipment hauling the rock won’t damage the roads.
The worst spots seem to be around hog confinement and grain sites.
“That’s partially because we have the good committed guys that came in early for those (efforts),” said Amelon. “Most people didn’t blame us … everybody knew this was a bad time of the year. Most people were (upset) at them (livestock haulers and grain truck companies).
“It wasn’t the frost boils down deep, but it was the slush on top,” he continued.
The rock came from the county’s 5,000-ton stockpile, and more rock is slated to be ordered. He estimated that the cost may be around $55,000 to $60,000.
Amelon’s remarks came in light of coverage on local television stations about nearby counties’ issues with gravel roads being nothing but mud, potentially disrupting business and hampering emergency responders. As was the case in other counties, some school districts in Iowa County had its buses use only hard-surfaced roads a few days last week.
Also as part of the engineer’s report, supervisors accepted fuel bids from Multi-County Oil, Williamsburg, which bid 17 cents to haul above the rack price.
In other business, sheriff Rob Rotter remarked about issues with some of the equipment still in use for the county’s dispatching system. Issues centered on the generators at several of the remote sites and console equipment abruptly shutting off. Some of the current computer equipment is outdated and it is very difficult if not impossible to find replacement equipment.
On the flip side, work is progressing nicely with the new tower sites and design of the new dispatching system, the $4.2 million system that is set to be built and go into service sometime in the next year or so. Detailed design and site plans should be in place by March 8, and much of the work should get underway once frost boils are out of the ground.
* Were told that John Gahring was re-elected board chairman and Dan Ray will continue as vice chairman of the Regional Environmental Improvement Commission (REIC), which oversees the Iowa County environmental services and the landfill.
* Approved a fuel-purchase-only convenience card for Casey’s General Store, Williamsburg, for Iowa County EMS.
* Were told that efforts to finalize a proposed fiscal year 2018 budget are nearly in place, and that a public hearing is close to being set. Action on setting a hearing date of Friday, March 3, will take place at an upcoming meeting.
The next board of supervisors’ meeting is 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 3, at the Iowa County Courthouse annex, 970 Court Ave., Marengo.
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