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Lungren Wind farm developers plan solar energy project northeast of Fort Dodge

By Staff | Mar 10, 2016

The Holliday Creek solar field project would be located in an area roughly demarked by the red circle on the map at right.

FORT?DODGE -A company hopes to build the largest solar field in Iowa just northeast of Fort Dodge.

EDF Renewable Energy is currently in talks with local landowners, according to Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau.

“We expect the project will require 1,000-1,200 acres, depending on the contiguity of participating land and available technology in the final layout and design,” Leanne Russell Fate, EDF Renewable Energy associate project developer, said.

It hopes to site the project east of the Fort Dodge Regional Airport, south of Badger and west of Vincent. “They’re proposing to lease the ground for 37 years,” Dencklau said.

“This area was targeted due to the availability of transmission capacity, community interest and suitability of the land,” Fate said. “While the project does not yet have an offtake arrangement, our customers have expressed an interest in solar in the Midwest and we will continue those conversations as development continues.”

EDF says the Holliday Creek solar project will produce about 100 megawatts when completed.

That is enough to power around 30,000 average homes.

“As the cost of solar continues to drop, we see the opportunity to expand our solar installations into so-called ‘nontraditional’ areas,” Fate said.

“Solar can be installed nearly anywhere. While the solar resource in Iowa may not be as rich as the desert southwest, there is definitely enough resource here to support a large-scale project. EDF RE has successfully developed nearly 1,000 megawatt of wind projects in Iowa and while we’re still developing wind here, we are excited to add solar to our portfolio.”

This is the same company that built the Lundgren Wind Project in southern Webster County, Dencklau said. The large wind turbine farm now belongs to MidAmerican Energy.

About 30 landowners met last week with company representatives to find out about the project, and ask questions.

The location was chosen because it’s near a substation, Dencklau said.

But it’s also prime farmland.

“This is the most productive land in Iowa,” he said. “(Corn suitability ratings) of 70 and 80.”

That’s why the company is offering pretty good pay, he said.

“It is a lot of money,” Dencklau said. “Right now the lease (they’ve offered) is $800 an acre, plus it goes up 2.5 percent every year. … Right now cash rent’s about $250, so its nearly three or four times more. So it looks like a good contract, but then you go through all your what-ifs.”

Unlike a wind farm, with one large foundation, the solar field would be filled with many solar panels – so it’s important to think about the impact this would have on the soil, he said.

There are plenty of questions right now, but it’s still early in the process, and the company continues to work with landowners, he said.

“We need a solid contract,” Dencklau said.

“The biggest question is why don’t they just buy the ground,” he added.

The company is also working on putting together a good neighbor agreement to help ensure the company gets along well with those living nearby, according to Dencklau.

The company hopes to have the panels up and running by 2018-2020.

EDF is a national company, which has developed 912 megawatts of wind energy in Iowa.

“EDF Renewable Energy is one of the largest renewable energy developers in North America with 7.8 gigawatts of wind, solar, storage, biomass and biogas projects developed throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico,” Fate said.

Nationwide, solar seems to be taking off. For the first year ever, solar energy is projected to grow more in 2016 than any other electricity generating source, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Companies expect to add 9.5 gigawatts of solar generating capacity to the energy grid, the Energy Information Administration reports. That is higher than the expected 8 gigawatt gain in natural gas generation, and 6.8 gigawatt of wind.

Solar will represent 37 percent of all power additions this year, the report states.

Solar, wind, and natural gas combined will account for 93 percent of new capacity.

This level of additions is substantially higher than the 3.1 gigawatt of solar added in 2015 and would be more than the total solar installations for the past three years combined.

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