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Wind energy opportunities exist in Iowa

It'll take homegrown effort

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

FLOYD, Iowa -- Wind energy represents a homegrown opportunity for Iowa, says Keith Kutz with the Iowa Energy Center.

"Iowa is the 10th windiest state in the country and ranks fourth behind California, Texas and Minnesota in wind generation, but our opportunities are ones that we will have to create ourselves,'' Kutz told the 100 people who attended last week's Wind Energy Workshop in Floyd.

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In Iowa, utilities have met requirements for renewable energy generation, but that doesn't mean more wind farms won't be built, Kutz said.

"It's just that we'll have to work harder to make it happen,'' he said.

He pointed to Hancock County, where supervisors worked several years with Alliant Energy to build support for a wind farm in the county.

"It's not likely that the wind farm people are going to knock on your door,'' Kutz said.

Ag Ventures Alliance, a farmer-based economic development group in north central Iowa, is also looking at the feasibility of investing in a wind farm, Kutz said.

In the future, utilities may be more interested in distributed wind generation, Kutz said. Rather than building large wind farms like those in Worth, Cerro Gordo and Buena Vista counties, they will have smaller groups of generators in various parts of the state.

Wind energy production, especially on a small scale, faces challenges.

There are no standardized rules or guidelines for putting up wind generation systems. Large investor-owned utilities each have their own set of rules, and municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives have different regulations.

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"Small scale wind system owners rarely have the knowledge and resources to fully understand or negotiate through the regulatory requirements,'' Kutz said.

There are physical and regulatory transmission constraints. too.

One of the biggest obstacles facing small operators is utilities don't pay retail rates for the power that they purchase. Excess power is purchased at avoidance or wholesale cost, Kutz said.

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