Raising turbines

HARCOURT – MidAmerican Energy’s new wind farm in Webster County is well underway with 21 of the company’s planned 107 turbines standing across southern Webster County.

Construction started last fall, said Abby Bottenfield, a spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy.

When completed, the wind farm will generate 250 megawatts of electricity, according to Bottenfield.

Each megawatt can power the equivalent of more than 300 average Iowa homes, which means the Lundgren wind project could power up to 75,000 of those homes, she said.

The turbines are being made by Siemens Energy.

Bottenfield said the turbine blades are being manufactured by the company’s plant in Fort Madison. The naceles, which are the parts at the top of the tower to which the blades are attached, are being made at the company’s plant in Hutchinson, Kan.

Wanzek Construction, of Fargo, N.D., is building the turbines.

Each of the turbines is 263 feet high.

A new substation for the turbines will be constructed near the existing Lehigh substation, Bottenfield said.

An estimated 300 construction workers are in Fort Dodge to finish the project.

Bottenfield said the wind farm is scheduled to go online before the year is out.

The wind farm will provide income to the property owners where the turbines will be located.

“It’s going to put money into the pockets of the landowners who will be renting the ground out,” said Webster County Supervisor Clark Fletcher in an earlier interview.

He said property taxes will eventually be collected on the turbines, although a property tax rebate is in effect for the first seven years of the turbines’ existence as a result of a state law.

According to Fletcher, the county provide no financial incentives for the wind farm.

”There are no economic development downsides,” he said.

The advent of the wind turbines is being felt in areas not directly related to renewable energy.

For example, a large home at 702 S. 30th St. in Fort Dodge is being converted into a lodging house for construction workers.

Also, the Fort Dodge Fire Department is training for potential rescue situations on the turbines.

The Lundgren Wind Farm is part of a larger project that will result in 448 new turbines in Iowa, according to Bottenfield. She said the other turbines will be in Grundy, Madison, Marshall and O’Brien counties.

Company officials have described the overall project as the largest windpower expansion in Iowa’s history.

“We look forward to continuing positive relationships with state and county officials as well as landowners and other local residents during the construction and operation of the new wind farms,” Bill Fehrman, the president and chief executive officer of MidAmerican Energy, said in a written statement. “Not only will the projects bring jobs and other economic development to the state, they will enhance MidAmerican Energy’s renewable energy portfolio – making additional affordable, environmentally responsible energy to benefit our customers.”

The new wind-powered generation resource, Bottenfield said, “will be added to MidAmerican Energy’s generation portfolio with no changes in base electric rates.

“Additionally, the new expansion will help stabilize electric rates over the long term.”