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Guide aims to help local governments prepare for Iowa's growing wind industry

Wind turbines, part of MidAmerican Energy's Laurel Project, turn in the wind down 325th Street near Laurel on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Wind turbines, part of MidAmerican Energy's Laurel Project, turn in the wind down 325th Street near Laurel on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

With every new wind turbine project inching Iowa closer to generating 40 percent of its power from wind, the number of turbines within the state is rapidly growing.

And as the industry expands, so too does the number of Iowa counties and communities facing unfamiliar regulations required for wind turbine development.

A new guide created by the Center for Rural Affairs aims to help in those cases.

“Wind turbines are multiplying across the U.S. and most are installed in rural areas overlooking crops, cattle, timber and lakes,” Lu Nelsen, policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, said in a Monday news release. “Rural communities have experienced several benefits from the development of wind energy, but the growth of the industry has also presented a challenge in the form of local regulations that may be insufficient or out of date.”

The Wind Energy Ordinances guide, released Monday, includes recommendations for new zoning regulations or ordinances, common application requirements and wind energy industry terms.

In addition, it also provides common requirements for siting, construction and operations, as well as setback requirements.

The guide is meant to help local entities, which may be unfamiliar with the wind industry, craft the proper local rules for wind turbines or farms.

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“Wind ordinances on the city, county and state levels may be hard to understand, whether you are an expert or just becoming familiar with the industry,” Nelsen said in the release. “This guide is useful for people with all levels of wind energy knowledge.”

In February, Iowa’s largest utility MidAmerican Energy announced that the utility’s latest two wind farms have come online.

The 338 megawatts of power in those two farms join the state’s growing portfolio of wind power.

Combined with Alliant Energy, the two utilities expect to bring the state’s wind power total up to nearly 10,000 MW by 2020, compared to less than 1,000 MW in 2006.

Iowa landowners in 2015 received more than $17 million in lease payments from wind farms. That number is expected to double in the coming years, according to the Iowa Environmental Council.

Counties with wind farms — including Pottawattamie, Buena Vista and Carroll — also have seen annual property tax revenue increase by more than $1 million a piece, according to the council.

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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