Huxley turbines will be part of microgrid wind farm

Ronna LawlessStaff Writer
Huxley turbines will be part of microgrid wind farm

As Americans become increasingly interested in clean energy, the use of wind turbines to produce electricity is on the rise. Wind farms in the United States currently produce enough energy to power more than 1.6 million homes, and that number could be as high as 25 million by 2020, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

One of the people excited about the potential for wind energy is Dr. Kirk Peterson of Huxley. Currently, two wind turbines are being built on farm land south of Huxley, and Peterson is one of the landowners involved in the project. Clean energy produced by the turbines will go directly into the power grid.

Peterson was approached by a company about building a wind turbine about four years ago, but he said he wasn’t interested then. But the idea grew on him — the idea of a project that would produce clean energy and the idea that at least some of that energy would probably end up powering local homes.

“The biggest selling point for me to do this is that wind energy is clean energy,” Peterson said. “This won’t be power generated by a coal burning plant somewhere.”

Two wind turbines are being built on the land just north of Highway 210, south of Huxley. One is being built on the land of Peterson’s neighbor Tom Sharpnack, and the other is being built on the lot line Peterson’s farm shares with the Fausch family. Each of the parties agreed to grant the turbine company an easement on their properties. Peterson estimated that each turbine will cost the company between $2.5-3 million to complete.

Each wind turbine will provide enough energy to supply power to about 980 homes. Between the two turbines, that’s close to 2,000 homes that could be powered by the electricity produced.

The power will be provided to everyone, including Peterson himself, by Alliant Energy. “The electricity that is generated will go directly into the power grid,” Peterson said.

All of that power comes from a project with a footprint of just about 1.25 acres, he said, and that was a positive factor in deciding to be involved.

“I think it’s a really cool project,” Peterson said. “The more research I do about it, the more excited I am about the whole thing.”

The project is local, but Peterson said a project like this can have impact that is far-reaching. “The more we use clean energy options like this, the less dependent we are on foreign oil,” he said.

The wind farm is an endeavor of Building Energy, an Italian-based company with U.S. headquarters in Washington, D.C. The company’s wind farm includes 10 wind turbines in central Iowa, including Huxley, Ames, Nevada, Alden and Grinnell.

Each turbine has a potential power of 3 MW. The turbine supplier is Acciona, through Acciona Windpower North America.

The EPC contractor is Michels Corporation, a Wisconsin-based company. “They engineer, procure and construct,” said Will Douglas, the owner’s representative on the project.

Douglas said the property south of Huxley was attractive for the project because of its proximity to the substation, which is northeast of the turbines and visible from the job site.

From the wind turbines, the power will have a matching distribution voltage of 34.5 kV as it enters the local power supply, Douglas said.

The rotor diameter is 125 meters, according to project engineer Guy Teuwissen. “It seems really to be the biggest one in the U.S.,” he said. Teuwissen is originally from Belgium, now lives in Italy, and is currently in the U.S. overseeing the projects.

The tower will be 287 feet high, and blades will be 205 feet long. The maximum rotation speed will be about 15 rpm (revolution per minute).

Working in the wind energy industry since 1998, Teuwissen said he’s witnessed great improvements in the capacity for energy generation. Attending an annual international convention, “each year we talk about how we’ve reached the limit to the power we can produce with each turbine, but every year it increases,” he said. That maximum figure used to be 3 MW, he said, but it has grown over the years and now the highest output in the world is 7 MW.

Building Energy pays particular attention to farming issues and wants to go ahead with others projects in Iowa, Teuwissen said.