MUSCATINE, Iowa — The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors tabled action Monday on a proposed wind energy ordinance to give county officials more time to prepare regulations involving protection of farmland and county roads.
West Liberty City Manager Lawrence McNaul said the city is partnering with West Liberty Foods to find renewable sources of energy. The city is working with Bluestem Energy Solutions, out of Omaha, Nebraska, to design the system and find an appropriate location. The city approached the county about the project.
Muscatine County has no regulations regarding the development of a wind energy project.
Tom Swierczewski, director of development services with Bluestem, spoke to the Board of Supervisors during Monday's meeting.
"We partner with local municipalities for coops and do two turbines, four turbines, those types of projects," he said.
Technological advancements, price declines and federal tax credits have made smaller projects like West Liberty's feasible.
"These factors have really played into wind becoming viable very recently in eastern Iowa," Swierczewski said.
"We're excited to be potentially partnering with West Liberty to do a two-turbine project in Muscatine County on the outskirts of the City of West Liberty."
The locations have yet to be finalized.
Bluestem was founded in 2008. The company acts as the developer, financier owner, and operator.
"We are really looking for long-term projects in our client communities. And this is our first project in Iowa. We're hoping that it goes very well," Swierczewski said.
The county's Planning and Zoning director Eric Furnas is going to prepare a scoring system which would help determine the impact of a wind turbine project including the effects of taking land out of crop production.
"I just don't see us getting a large number of these but we just don't know. We're writing it as if we are going to become a Buena Vista County sometime in the future," Furnas said.
Buena Vista County has a large number of wind turbines located around the county.
Furnas said the board needs to consider the impact on area roads during the construction phase, the impact on nearby residential communities as well as the corn suitability rating or CSR. Iowa's CSR was initially developed in 1971 as an index method to rate different kinds of soils for their potential row-crop productivity. The
CSR rating system is designed to rate one soil's yield potential against another over time. It assigns a point system that has each soil start at 100 and then deductions are made for different factors such as land condition, slope, water and climate.
West Liberty has its own electric municipal utility, McNaul said.
"It's about efficiency of the turbines, and wind funnels, channels. The studies they go into have to do with migratory patterns for birds , wind funnels and then they do quite an extensive study. We started in this over a year ago just to do the feasibility with Bluestem to see if we were even a prospect site for something. It came back through the feasibility study that yes, we were," McNaul said.
Estimates are that each wind turbine takes about half an acre of farmland out of production. The farmers sign long-term leases with Bluestem and receive financial compensation.
Swierczewski estimated the impact on county roads of the construction of two turbines.
It would involve approximately 10 or 12 component deliveries including delivery of the large blades, 10-25 truckloads of cement for the foundation as well as other standard construction materials.
The estimated life of a wind turbine is 25 years. The blades are changed on average every 8 to 10 years.