O'Brien County moves closer to beginning $1 billion wind project
Invenergy's $1 billion wind project will be based in the middle of O'Brien County.
For years, leaders in O'Brien County, Iowa, have talked about harnessing the power of the wind. Now, after more than a decade of discussion, a major energy company announced its plans to build there.
"Look around, there's wind. We have wind almost every day," said Tom Farnsworth, head of the O'Brien County supervisors.
Since 2003, O'Brien County has wanted to use its open farm land to grow opportunities to create power.
"We had all kinds of companies telling us that they wanted to put wind power up, with wind towers, because it was an ideal situation for where to put them," said Farnsworth.
But Farnsworth says something was still missing.
"Everyone had the problem of getting the power out," said Farnsworth.
County officials say one thing that's already made a big difference in getting this project off the ground is miles and miles of transmission lines.
Enter Chicago-based wind farm developer, Invenergy.
"Basically, Invenergy worked out some kind of deal with MidAmerican Energy, which owns these towers here, to hook these wind projects onto them," said Farnsworth.
County economic development director Kiana Johnson says this project would send power to areas like Chicagoland, and beyond.
"That is very appealing to think O'Brien County could provide that to larger communities throughout the United States," said Johnson.
Johnson says each turbine would cost between $2 and $2.5 million. Invenergy plans to put up 215 towers throughout the middle of the county, around Highland and Central townships. Those plans would have all kinds of benefits for the county of nearly 15,000 residents.
"Construction, maintenance, management jobs that will come to O'Brien County and really opens the door for economic development," said Johnson.
New turbines would mean dozens of full and part-time jobs. Schools would stand as the biggest beneficiaries, as they receive 53 percent of the property tax revenue. Plus, at $18,000 of revenue per turbine, county leaders are already seeing a brighter future. Plus, officials say they're not going to lose their identity as farmers.
"I guess you could look at it as value added. We're going to be using the farm land to make another product in addition to the food source, we'll have wind energy that will come off of that as well," said Johnson.
County officials hope the wind energy project could be completed in the next few years. They say the turbines could be tax exempt for the first 7-10 years, so it would take that long until the county would really start to see the benefits of the project.