Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The dangers involved in not allowing local control:

I read this story on the Register's website right after lunch, and on the surface it's good news: MidAmerican Energy, which recently announced plans to build 66 wind turbines in Carroll and Crawford counties, today announced plans to build 82 more turbines in Pocahontas county.

As an aside, western Iowa is a great place to find wind. Just imagine how great it could be if Steve King were home all the time. One more reason to vote for Joyce Schulte.

Anyway, environmentally this is great news. Everyone loves renewable energy, and many of us love it even more when we can have a conversation about renewable energy without it starting and ending with ethanol. The problem is the lost potential. From the Register story:

The new turbines, to be constructed by enXco Development Corp., will generate 123 megawatts of energy.


EnXco Development Corp. is based in Minneapolis. I haven't been able to find out where they get the materials for their turbines. But certainly, the manufacture and installation of almost 150 turbines in 3 counties in western Iowa could have been an economic development boon for these three counties. Instead, MidAmerican Energy's investment is going to a company in Minnesota.

Renewable energy can be a key economic development asset across rural Iowa. But it won't be if we continue to let MidAmerican Energy control it.

KL

10 comments:

Chris Woods said...

Well said.

bacon said...

Interestingly, Clipper Windpower has begun building what may be the most efficient turbines in the country in Cedar Rapids. The Department of Economic Development has been recruiting wind turbine manufacturers to the state as part of a strategy to locate more wind farms here. One of the biggest expenses related to wind power startups is transporting the huge turbines from plants on the coasts and overseas. Now, with the plant in C.R., those costs are greatly reduced. It's one reason why Excel and Windpower are building a 60 turbine farm in Osceola County.

Chris Woods said...

At least now we know that the Dept. of Econ. Develop. is actually doing some meaningful work.

Chris said...

Anyone know why I can't have a personal wind turbine on top of my house like the ones they have in England? Who's bright idea was it to stop that from happening here? In addition to wind farms, we need to allow the use of smaller, one-dwelling type turbines.

No, seriously, we do. Really.

bacon said...

I don't know if there is a law against it, but they are cost prohibitive. There is an economy that comes from building several of them together. There might be zoning laws in Sioux City tht would preclude you from something that high. Dunno.

Chris Woods said...

Chris, I'm guessing the answer is probably what bacon said, not to mention the way they operate within the existing power structure simply creates a system where self-sustaining power like that isn't possible when most folks in a large geographical area operate on the same power grid.

noneed4thneed said...

A lot of cities have zoning laws against wind turbines on your house. Recently, Mason City changed their zoning laws to allow wind turbines in city limits. I think you must have 1 acre of land and the turbine must be placed on your lot, so if it would fall over it stays on your property.

RF said...

The smaller turbines intended for more urban houses that Chris referred to are being developed in the UK, but to my knowledge they are not in commercial production yet. The problem with the current smaller turbines on rooftops would be that they create too many vibrations. The rooftop models being developed in the UK won't produce nearly as much energy, but they may be the only way to bring wind energy to homeowners in urban areas.

With the larger turbines, there is a huge worldwide shortage of wind turbines and very long delivery times. People need to get their turbines wherever they can. The bigger issue with economic development is who owns the turbines. Locally owned turbines keep the income in Iowa. Out-of-state owners (such as Florida Power & Light) obviously take the profits with them.

Chris Woods said...

Oh, and I just looked at what else they've done and they built the wind farm up in Cerro Gordo County, the one you can see from I-35, I believe. That farm is pretty productive, so it looks like they've got a decent record.

Chris said...

As RF said, I was thinking about much smaller turbines - I've seen pictures, and they look to be about five feet across is all, mounted on the top of a roof. If memory serves (which is rare) I think they said the turbine will provide 1/2 to 2/3rds of the house's electrical needs. Of course the excess juice produced on windy days gets put back into the grid and the turbine owner gets credit for that on his bill.

I didn't know that they were still getting the bugs out of the process. I hope they do it soon!