SPENCER, Iowa — More wind turbines are set to sprout on rural Northwest Iowa farmland in the coming years.
Cedar Rapids-based Alliant Energy has announced plans to start construction on the Upland Prairie Wind project, a 300-megawatt wind farm in neighboring Clay and Dickinson counties.
A division of Alliant, one of Iowa's largest utilities, purchased the project, which covers about 30,000 acres, from Apex Clean Energy, a Virginia-based company that developed the project.
In a news release, Doug Kopp, president of Alliant's Iowa division, championed the addition of Upland Prairie Wind to the company’s arsenal as a win for green energy advocates.
"We are bringing more clean and cost-competitive wind energy to our customers," he said."If our second wind expansion project is approved, one third of our energy in Iowa will be from wind, starting in 2020."
The Upland Prairie Wind farm will include 121 turbines, projected to produce enough power for 130,000 homes, according to Alliant. The utility estimates the project will provide more than $40 million in local tax benefits over its lifetime and provide $45 million in landowner payments over the next 25 years.
Hundreds of construction jobs also will be created during the building phase, resulting in a lot of local spending, and at least 15 full-time permanent jobs will be created, according to Apex.
Kiley Miller, president and CEO of the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corp., an economic development organization that represents Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson and Emmet counties, thinks this project will have a positive impact on the region.
“We would see the impact coming in four key areas,” he said. “Certainly it will create some job opportunities both during installation and then long-term in maintenance. There’s the income opportunity as Upland Prairie pays long-term for the use of their land.
“There’s taxable evaluation, which, of course, is needed across the state of Iowa to continue the great services that the state has. Then, finally, there will could be secondary economic development opportunities,” Miller added.
Miller said auxiliary wind energy business have already contacted his organization.
“Our organization has been approached by businesses that support the wind energy industry in some way,” he said. They are interested in being in Northwest Iowa for this and other projects in the area.”
Miller also noted the lakes region is perfectly suited for continued development in the wind energy sector thanks to the presence of Iowa Lakes Community College, which has a wind energy and turbine technology program.
“ I feel like that certainly gives our region an advantage both in terms of being able to accommodate these types of projects and also in supplying the workers,” he said.
Northwest Iowa also is home to the O’Brien and Highland Wind Energy projects in O’Brien County, which combined form the largest wind farm in the Hawkeye State. Additionally, there are other smaller wind farms operating in Buena Vista, Dickinson, Kossuth and Osceola counties.
Jobs in the renewable sector continue to grow in Iowa as 30,418 people now work in clean energy in the state and 25 percent of the nation’s wind energy jobs are located here, according to a September analysis by Clean Energy Trust and the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs.