Iowa transmission line powers new Lakes area wind farms

Source: By RUSS OECHSLIN, Sioux City Jornal • Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2016

ESTHERVILLE, Iowa | Two new wind farms are in the final planning stages in Dickinson and Emmet counties as a result of a new high-voltage transmission line being constructed by MidAmerican Energy Co.

The NorthStar and Red Rock wind farms are planned as 200 and 300 megawatt farms, respectively, according to organizer Al Blum, of Estherville. He estimated the total project costs at about $700 million, depending on the size and number of turbines erected.

Blum said he expects to have a full announcement about the privately-owned projects by the end of the summer.

The wind-generated energy will be carried by MidAmerican’s new transmission lines, which are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

The new lines will extend about 120 miles through six northern Iowa counties, O’Brien, Clay, Palo Alto, Kossuth, Humboldt and Webster. The 345-kilovolt lines will replace a recently abandoned 161-kilovolt line that ran along a similar path, starting near Sanborn.

The old lines that crossed the Highway 71 just north of Spencer were cut down April 4. Officials say that in addition to sporadic delays for maintenance through the end of the month, there will be brief highway as helicopters string new sock lines over the right-of-way.

The Sabre Industries plant in Sioux City built the 120 support poles for the lines from O’Brien to Webster counties, as well as 68 more from Hancock to Black Hawk County. The structures, made of self-weathering steel that don’t require painting or periodic maintenance, are placed further apart than the smaller, wooden poles along the right-of-way.

The transmission line project was engineered by Mesa, Ariz.-based EC Source, and is being constructed by its Houston-based subsidiary, T&D Power. A crew of about 90 is working on the project in western Iowa, with a like number deployed in eastern Iowa.

The MidAmerican line was approved by the Midcontinent Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc. (MISO) board of directors in 2011, and is estimated to cost $294 million, which will be paid for by MISO member companies. Dubbed “MVP 3,” the new system is one of MISO’s 17 Multi-Value Projects,

MidAmerican, Iowa’s largest utility, said the project will provide more efficient energy delivery to homes and businesses and help mitigate the potential effects of storm caused power outage, said company spokesperson Ashton Newman.

“If one line falls during a storm, another line can help to carry the load needed to keep the power on,” Newman said. “The new lines are also designed to meet expected growth in renewable energy generation. They will allow us to deliver more clean energy, like wind, to customers.

Newman added the project also will landowner easement payments, an increase in annual property tax payments to local counties, constructions jobs and future renewable energy possibilities.

Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative president and CEO Rick Oleson said the MidAmerican project “will spawn a lot of wind development between the east side of the Iowa Great Lakes area to Interstate 35.”

“Even though we have great wind resources in the area, we haven’t been able to develop wind power without adequate transmission lines,” Oleson said.

Two weeks ago, MidAmerican Energy, a national leader in renewable energy, announced plans to add 1,000 wind turbines at a yet-to-be determined site in Iowa. The $3.6 billion project will be the largest industrial development in state history.

Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, serves 752,000 electric customers and 733,000 natural gas customers in a 10,600-square mile area in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska.