Iowa Small Towns Get Greener with GE Wind Turbines 0

Rachel Nuwer | Mon Jun 11 2012

In rural Iowa, there’s a whole lot of corn, cows and wind turbines. Iowa is second only to Texas for spinning up renewable wind energy, with a power generation capacity of around 4,495-megawatts (MW). And, as they say, every little bit counts.

This week, residents of a pair of small Iowa towns committed to adding 9.6 MW to their grid through purchase of six additional GE 1.6-82.5 wind turbines.

Residents of Greenfield (population 2,100) and Fontanelle (population 700) spearheaded this decision. Two previously installed GE 1.5-MW wind turbines proved a success for the rural southwestern communities, so 180 locals teamed up to buy shares in the six new units. All in all, the communities will now enjoy 12.6-MW of renewable wind energy, enough to power around 3,000 households, businesses and farmsteads. The surplus energy will be sold to Central Iowa Power Cooperative, the regional power distributor.

We have a favorable climate, in the literal sense, with the wind.

Expanding the wind energy potential made a lot of sense, according to Randy Caviness, the manager of Meadow Ridge Wind Energy in Greenfield that will be powered by one of the new turbines. “We have a favorable climate, in the literal sense, with the wind,” he explains. “And number two, the State has been very supportive of it with tax incentives.”

Iowa offers a 10-year tax credit for small wind power projects generating less than 2.5-MW, and local counties provide property tax incentives for the first seven years. Each turbine generates benefits from tax credits, land lease royalty payments, property taxes and dividends. Those benefits total $1.08 million annually over a period of 10 years. The rewards go directly back to the community, and Caviness points out that the incentives make wind energy economically competitive with other sources of power.

Greenfield installed its first wind turbine in 2009 with the aim to generate its own sustainable power. Now, Caviness says, that goal has been met; the small town’s energy needs are fully satiated by the turbines. “I was just interested in it and wanted to become a part of that,” Caviness explains of his decision to launch a career in wind energy.

GE points to Greenfield and Fontanelle as role models for the rest of the country. “Ten percent of U.S. states generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind, with Iowa as one of the leaders at 19 percent,” says Vic Abate, GE’s vice president of renewable energy, in a statement. “The community wind energy initiative in Iowa represents and important model for other towns and communities to learn from.”

Top image: A GE 1.6-82.5 wind turbine. Courtesy GE Energy