Wind farm will dot county

The skyline across rural Webster County will soon be changing as construction for a planned wind farm is expected to be underway by late summer.

MidAmerican Energy announced in May a plan to install more than 400 wind turbines across Iowa. The $1.9 billion project was approved Friday by the Iowa Utilities Board.

Construction of the 448 turbines in Webster, Grundy, Madison, Marshall and O’Brien counties is slated to begin in September, Abby Bottenfield, a spokesperson for MidAmerican Energy, said.

A total of 109 turbines will be built in Webster County on the Lundgren Wind Farm south of Fort Dodge and to the east and west sides of U.S. Highway 169.

“We are working with landowners and county officials to get the location in place,” said Bottenfield.

The project has been in the planning stages for more than three years, Webster County Supervisor Bob Singer said.

When looking for locations for the wind farms, which will produce as much as 1,050 megawatts of wind power per year, Bottenfield said they took into consideration the ability of the area to provide a good source of wind generation, environmental concerns such as wetlands, proximity to transmission lines and community support.

“It is important that the local communities and landowners are for it,” she said. “Webster County has been very supportive and is a good fit for the turbines.”

The project is expected to boost economic development by generating more than $360 million in property taxes over a 30-year period with landowner payments of more than $3 million.

Singer said the wind farm could generate as much as $300,000 to $400,000 in annual revenue for the Webster County general fund.

In the first assessment year, the property tax assessed will be at 0 percent of net acquisition cost; the rate is 5 percent in the second through sixth years and 30 percent for the seventh year and beyond.

“There have been some concerns, but long-term it looks like it will be a win-win for the county taxpayers and farmers,” said Singer.

MidAmerican customers will also reap the benefits of local wind turbines over the years.

“All of our customers will feel the benefits,” said Bottenfield. “The power they produce is generated all over the state, but it goes to our customers first. On any day when the wind is blowing we will use all wind power.”

MidAmerican customers can expect to see a rate reduction of nearly $10 million by 2017.

The local economy will also receive a boost, Bottenfield said.

“This project will add about 160 temporary construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs” she said.

Locally, about 20 of those positions will be permanent full-time jobs, Supervisor Mark Campbell said.

“This is a 30-year agreement,” said Campbell. “We will do the best we can to plan for the future.”

MidAmerican currently operates 1,267 wind turbines across Iowa, generating 2,284 megawatts of power – including a 286.4 megawatt site in Calhoun and Pocahontas counties and a 200-megawatt site in Wright and Hamilton counties.