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Iowa Supreme Court rules on two Palo Alto County wind farm issues

The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling on how wind farms are categorized for regulation.

Landowners in Palo Alto County argued a wind project with 170 turbines should be considered one large energy production facility. This would require the company to apply for what’s called a “certificate of public convenience, use and necessity” from the Iowa Utilities Board. The IUB ruled the turbines are not all connected to a single gathering line and therefore don’t produce the amount of electricity needed to require a certificate.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says the justices are not energy specialists – but says the standard used by the IUB is superior to all other tests for when a wind project should be deemed a single site or facility. The ruling says the definition is more consistent than what the landowners requested and more in line with the legislature’s policy goals. It also says the IUB has been consistent in its definition in 20 separate proceedings since 1997.

In a related case, the Iowa Supreme Court says the wind energy ordinance created by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors is valid.

A group of landowners sought to overturn the ordinance – saying it was invalid because two companies involved in building wind farms pushed for changes in the ordinance. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says the justices are not persuaded by the landowners’ argument.

It says the ordinance was primarily written by the county attorney – and while Invenergy and MidAmerican energy said they could not build windfarms without changes – incorporating requests from a private party does not make an ordinance unlawful. The Supreme Court says lobbying is every citizen’s constitutional right, and both sides exercised that right in this case.

Here’s the IUB ruling: Palo-Alto-IUB-ruling