On the contrary, use wind for energy does add up

By Jeff Cook-Coyle

Hats off to the Post-Bulletin team that prepared the Chasing the Wind section of last week’s paper. As one of the wind industry professionals cited, I appreciate this opportunity to clarify some statements made by wind project opponent Kevin Hammel in a guest column on the Opinions Page headlined "Energy projections don’t add up," and information in the "Chasing the Wind" report.

I do not believe the guest column writer had access to the reporters’ information, and said a number of things that contradicted the actual reporting.

"Each turbine requires a pad and pier base 8.5 feet deep, 50 feet in diameter, filled with 25,000 pounds of reinforced steel and 180 yards of concrete."

Page 8 of Chasing the Wind states correctly that each foundation will require 57,000 pounds of steel and 278 cubic yards of concrete. Nature Energies expects to pay local contractors $6 million to dig out the foundation holes and build the foundations for the 60 MW Eyota-Viola Wind Farm we are developing east of Rochester.


Hammel stated in his guest column that, "Power companies are mandated to buy this expensive, unreliable energy and they pass the costs along to consumers."

Page 16 of Chasing the Wind shows that Iowa has a 105 MW renewable energy standard. Yet the state has 2,791 MW of wind. Why? MidAmerican Power, the state’s largest utility (and its majority stakeholder Warren Buffet) has made a huge investment in wind energy.

MidAmerican has not had an electric rate increase since 1995 and remains committed to holding rates stable. I wish the same was true for RPU. Wind energy will help RPU keep rates stable, just as it has helped MidAmerican keep its rates stable.

Hammel describes the Eyota-Viola Wind Farm as "a plant covering 8,000 acres" as opposed to the 520 acres of the 1,076 MW Prairie Island nuclear plant. Chasing the Wind describes on Page 18 how each wind turbine and access road actually cover less than an acre of land. Thus, the 60 MW Eyota-Viola Wind Farm will take fewer than 40 acres out of production while providing these farmers with a "second crop" that helps to balance the ups and downs of farming. 

Hamel writes: "Getting together with neighbors to support community-oriented projects can be rewarding and fun. Next time let’s try a winery or a community theater, or let’s just get together and play cards."

On the same day that the Chasing the Wind section was published, President Obama was at the Trinity wind turbine tower factory in Newton, Iowa, where a former Maytag washing machine factory was converted to make wind turbine towers. On that occasion, the president said this:

"So the implication in this argument is that we’ve somehow lost something important; that perhaps because of the very prosperity we’ve built over the course of generations, that we’ve given up that fighting American spirit, that sense of optimism, that willingness to tackle tough challenges, that determination to see those challenges to the end — the notion that we’ve gotten soft somehow.

"I reject that argument. I reject it because of what you’re doing right here at Trinity, what’s happening right here in Newton after folks have gone through hard times."


The same is true in Eyota-Viola. America needs clean energy. Rochester needs clean energy. The residents of Eyota-Viola know they have wind and they came together to turn it into usable energy. They formed a group, identified a developer, and put together a way to invest in the project.

Now, over 130 people who own land in the community are part of the project. This is not the time for sitting around and playing cards. That is not how that community got built, that is not how Rochester got built. And it’s not going to take us very well through the 21st Century.

Rochester Public Utilities is considering purchasing enough wind energy to make us the No. 6 municipal utility in the nation for wind energy. It’s a big commitment, but when you consider the saved air pollution, the hundreds of construction jobs, the dozen maintenance jobs, stabilized electric rates, local, reliable power that no one can disconnect from us, $600,000 paid every year in tax and landowner payments, and yes, the flashing lights, we hope that RPU pursues the courageous path of clean energy.

The Eyota-Viola Wind Farm was initiated by the community. They have had a say in the land agreements and how the wind farm is set up. They will be community investors and part owners of the wind farm. Practically everyone involved recognizes that this is an uncommon opportunity to seize a benefit out of thin air — for farmers and their neighbors in the project area, for schoolkids in Eyota, for taxpayers in Rochester, for everyone who breathes air and needs reliable electricity.

Jeff Cook-Coyle is vice president, development, of Nature Energies.

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