Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative dedicates first in the nation project

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Wind energy will serve two ethanol plants in Superior and Lakota. (Photo by Anitra Wolf)

Despite a turbulent national economy, one local electrical cooperative is following the winds of opportunity to create a historic renewable energy project.

"This is truly a first in the nation event," said Terry L. Bruns, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative president and chief executive office. "What started as an unlikely dream has now made Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative first in the nation to use wind energy to serve another renewable energy form - the Superior and Lakota ethanol plants."

The $43 million wind farm project was dedicated during a ceremony Aug. 20 at the Superior 71 Drive-In Theatre west of Superior. Keynote speakers included Congressman Tom Latham, State Sen. Jack Kibbie, Sen. Chuck Grassley (via video).

"This wind project is a real pioneer in the generation and use of renewable energy," said Grassley. "The energy produced by these turbines is directly reducing our dependence on foreign oil."

Latham added that the project is not just about energy, but it's also about creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

Last week's ceremony also included recognition of the organizations, businesses and individuals who made the project possible.

Renewable energy serving renewable energy

The two cooperative-owned wind farms consist of seven turbines each that are strategically located to provide power to adjoining ethanol plants. Distributing generation close to large loads takes advantage of the existing substation infrastructure and eliminates the need to add a transmission level connection, which can be extremely expensive.

The wind project began with strategic planning by the Iowa Lakes' board of directors. Iowa Lakes broke ground on the projects in August 2008, and the wind farms began generating power in late March 2009.

"A project of this scale would normally take three to five years and we condensed it into 18 months," said Bruns.

In December 2007, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative was awarded $43 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to finance the development of the wind energy projects within Iowa Lakes' electric service territory. CREBs are a federal financing mechanism, established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, similar to the tax credits that investor-owned utilities receive for developing renewable generation projects.

Turbine Technology

- The two wind farms produce approximately 71 million kilowatt hours of wind-generated electricity each year - that's the equivalent to serving almost 3,700 homes for a year.

- The 1.5 megawatt turbines stand 263 feet tall - without the rotor blades - about the same height as the statue of liberty. (With the 128 foot rotor blade, overall height is 290 feet.)

- It takes 25 semi tractor-trailors from South Carolina to deliver one wind turbine.

- Northwest Iowa has one of the highest average wind speeds in Iowa, and Iowa ranks fourth in the nation in wind energy production with more than 1,000 wind turbines currently in operation.

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