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MidAmerican unveils plans for wind farm in rural Mills, Pottawattamie counties  

Credit:  Ryan Matheny | KMA | www.kmaland.com ~~

(Glenwood) – Officials with MidAmerican Energy have unveiled a plan for a proposed wind farm in Mills and Pottawattamie counties that would begin operation in 2024, if approved.

During a Mills County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday, representatives of MidAmerican outlined plans for a 400-megawatt wind farm that would include up to 142 turbines in rural parts of Mills and Pottawattmie Counties north of Silver City. The project is still in the development phase and no application has been submitted to either county for approval yet. Sara Houlihan is a senior project developer with MidAmerican who is working on the project, dubbed the Silver Creek Wind Farm. Houlihan says that while they have a target area for the project, the exact location of turbines has not been finalized.

“The initial turbine layout is not going to be known until the end of this year into next year,” said Houlihan. “That’s like the number one question I’m getting from phone calls right now is where are the turbines going. We just don’t know yet. We’re looking at who decides to participate, looking at all our studies and setbacks and from that we’ll build that area, the buildable area where turbines can go.”

MidAmerican estimates the project will generate up to $92 million in landowner lease payments over the 40-year life of the farm, plus approximately $187 million in property tax payments between the two counties. Houlihan says in addition to environmental studies, officials are working with interested landowners in signing lease agreements.

“The evaluation period is a period of seven-plus-two years,” said Houlihan. “That allows for us to do our studies, to evaluate if the project is even a possibility and during that time, it allows us to pay landowners a payment during that time to have their land under lease. Once the project goes operational, we start an operating period, which goes on for 40 years. Landowners who participate will get paid every year. It’s an annual lease payment for 40 years.”

Officials from the company fielded a number of questions from concerned citizens during the meeting, including those dealing with the profit the company would see from the wind farm. Michael Fehr is senior Vice President for renewable generation and compliance with MidAmerican. He says the company has received a Wind Energy Production Tax Credit for projects, but that they pass those savings back to their customers.

“An important thing to note on that production tax credit is that the benefit doesn’t stay with MidAmerican,” said Fehr. “It’s part of the reason that we have some of the lowest rates in the country. We’re able to take that production tax credit and there’s a couple different mechanisms depending on the wind farm, but that benefit will flow back to our customers. That’s part of the reason that we’re able to maintain – I think the EEI had us at the 12th or 11th lowest rates in the nation.”

Under current zoning ordinances in Mills County, wind turbine height is restricted to no more than 80 feet. MidAmerican’s current plans call for heights as tall as 600 feet, which would require a change in zoning ordinances by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Karen Seipold is a Mills County resident who spoke during the meeting. She urged the board to leave the ordinance in place to protect farmland in the county.

“With the best of intentions of this green project, they’re going to destroy a heck of a lot of green in our county,” said Seipold. “Where are we going to go? We’re not going to produce more farm ground. We can produce this kind of stuff with each blink of the wind, literally. I just ask that you maintain our current standards, as it is in this county, and not allow this project to go forth.”

County Supervisor Carol Vinton also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying she’s heard firsthand accounts of living near a wind farm.

“I come from Walnut,” said Vinton. “Let me tell you, you cannot believe the constant humming noise, the blinking of the lights. You sit out on your patio and it’s that constant, it just looks like an alien. Does Walnut like it? They hate it. They hate it completely. But, it’s too late. They were one of the first ones and they had no idea.”

The presentation Tuesday was only informational in nature, as MidAmerican has not yet submitted an application for the project. Once submitted, the Planning and Zoning Commission will be asked to consider allowing turbine construction, which would then require a final approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Source:  Ryan Matheny | KMA | www.kmaland.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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