In Iowa, more than 36% of total electricity generation comes from wind energy. And that’s meant more than $10 billion in project investment as well as manufacturing facilities in the state.
While no major wind farm project has been undertaken in Cerro Gordo County since the late-1990s, there is a subtle shift happening.
Along with the promise of the E.ON Climate and Renewables project in the Rockwell area, the county is markedly redeveloping at an existing site and continuing to clear hurdles with a newer one.
Recently, a project for three wind turbines east of Mason City got required approval from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
According to Cerro Gordo County Planning and Zoning Administrator John Robbins, those three turbines will go east of an existing two just about a mile outside of Mason City. Site prep is being done now for driveways and utility work such as connecting pertinent lines. Robbins said that that work could be done by the end of the fall but delays can always happen. Construction would then start in Spring 2020.
At the same time, the site near 10586 Balsam Ave. and S14 South will have its 55 turbines decommissioned and redeveloped with 15 new pieces.
As for the E.ON project, Robbins said that the company (which is based out of Germany and has 23 development projects in the United States) is going through transmission approvals with the state.
“So my understanding is that there’s sort-of a bottleneck right now,” Robbins said.
Robbins added that the county itself doesn’t necessarily pursue such projects.
“The developers are the ones initiating the projects,” he said. “They get initiated based on the demand. You’re not gonna build a wind farm unless you have demand for the wind power that’s gonna be generated.”
From the regulatory side, the biggest challenge is mitigating possible impacts.
As Robbins pointed out, those impacts biggest things are fairly obvious with wind farms.
There’s the visual impact as well as noise and shadow flicker (which is the effect of the sun shining through the rotating blades of a wind turbine and casting a moving shadow).
“That’s a newer thing we’ve started taking into account so we have conditions where they have automated blinds where we make the developer install those,” Robbins clarified.
As to whether or not more facilities are to come, there’s still plenty of usable land. Robbins said it just comes down to whether or not companies decide to pursue.
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