Wind Farm Could Be In Mahaska County’s Future

Jim Diamond with RPM Access spoke about a potential wind farm project in Mahaska County.

Jim Diamond with RPM Access spoke about a potential wind farm project in Mahaska County.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors started off the month of July by hearing from Jim Diamond. Diamond represents RPM Access, a development company that looks for opportunities to deploy wind turbines.

Diamond, a site developer with RPM Access, spoke with the Supervisors about the potential project. “We’ve been developing projects in Iowa since 2001,” explained Diamond. Their first project was in Worth County, where they built, approximately, a 370 mega-watt wind farm.

In Iowa, RPM Access is responsible for developing approximately 17% of all wind farms across the state. RPM Access is a privately held business based out of DeSoto, Iowa.

“This project is technically targeted for 169 mega-watts, but there are a lot of uncertainties with these developments regarding project size,” explained Diamond. Mahaska is just one of three different counties that could potentially be developed. Wind measurements, the FAA and environmental issues, along with approvals from county officials and lease agreements with land owners can all be an impact on a project such as this one.

Diamond believes that this project and its proposed location in the northwest portion of the county would help in reducing environmental concerns in regards to bald eagles.

Another consideration a project such as this has to consider is the amount of power a wind farm such as this can put onto the electrical grid, without causing damage and brown-out or black-out situations. “There is a tremendous amount of engineering and study about line tolerance and making sure there are adequate reserves,” explained Diamond.

Investors play a key role in the development of such a proposed project, with the one proposed for Mahaska County being approximately 290 million dollars to complete. Each turbine is nearly 4 million dollars, installed.

“Clearly, another important element is the land-owners and their receptivity to the project. We have no powers of eminent domain. If we don’t persuade the land-owners that it’s a good deal, we can’t put anything there,” explained Diamond. The land for a turbine is typically not bought by a development group, but instead, financial compensation from the project to the land-owners for the rights to place the turbine are worked out.

“That’s never been a real issue,” says Diamond of working with land owners, “because the money is quite powerful.”

Diamond said that the process of talking with land-owners has begun, “and hopefully we’ll get good community acceptance for it.”

When it comes to the development of a wind farm such as the one proposed for Mahaska County, tax abatement would need to be in place for the project to work. Each county that currently is home to such a project has a similar ordinance in place. “If there isn’t a tax abatement, then the taxes end up being almost as much as the capital cost of the equipment in the first place,” explained Diamond.

Andrew Jensen, Director of Mahaska Community Development Group, said that, from an economic development standpoint, he wanted to publicly support the tax abatement ordinance. “As Jim mentioned, these projects just don’t get built without having the right tax abatement in place.”

“We’ve talked with RPM Access quite a bit. It’s a great project and a good company,” said Jensen. “This will allow us to capture those types of investments in the future.”

Consideration of the ordinance would take place at the Mahaska County Supervisors meeting on August 18th, 2014.

The project, if approved and built, could bring in an additional $60 million dollars to Mahaska County over a 30 year span.

The project could potentially get under-way in 2016.

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