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NW Iowa feels wind power windfall

By Staff | Mar 6, 2014

KIANA JOHNSON, O’Brien County economic development director, stands on Tuesday at the base of what will become a wind turbine in Highland Township southeast of Primghar.

PRIMGHAR (AP) – A rural northwest Iowa county known for its strong winds is expecting an economic boom thanks to a surge of future wind energy projects.

Various companies are planning large-scale projects in O’Brien County during the next several years that would harness and export renewable energy to more populated regions.

The projects, which include turbine and power line construction, are expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and thousands of temporary jobs.

The projects from companies like MidAmerican Energy Co. represent an economic boom that will help local businesses and grow communities, said Rodd Holtkamp, a member of the county economic development board.

“It’s an economic boom for the county the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” he said. “It should eventually put more people in our grocery stores, more people in our churches, more people in our schools.”

MidAmerican broke ground in November on a 500-megawatt wind farm that will include more than 200 wind turbines over 70,000 acres. It’s scheduled to be done by the end of 2015. The company also has plans for a high-voltage overhead transmission line.

Houston-based Clean Line Energy is awaiting approval for another high-voltage transmission line that will export 3,500 megawatts of wind-generated electricity. It’s expected to be in service in 2017.

County Economic Development Director Kiana Johnson said several more companies are looking to develop wind-related projects in the area, but they’re in earlier planning stages.

But all the interest is expected to bring thousands of temporary workers to the area, who in turn will help local businesses.

“The trickle-down of those dollars going through the community time and time again is just going to be amazing,” said Holtkamp, the county economic development board member.

The newspaper reported that the wind farms and transmission lines, in the end, are projected to create hundreds of permanent jobs in the region.

Some residents have expressed concern that projects like the transmission line from Clean Line Energy may force landowners to sell valuable property. But supporters say farmers can retain ownership and the right to till the land under the lines and turbines.

“As a farmer, I sell hogs, cattle and corn and soybeans,” said O’Brien County farmer Jay Hofland, who supports the development. “We export all of those things. I’m strongly behind exporting some wind energy out of this area.

“It’s another energy stream and it’s a good opportunity.”

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