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First phase of Storm Lake project turning

Earth Day was the official unveiling of what is so far the largest wind plant in Iowa, the 80.25 MW Storm Lake II project. The plant, in farmland in the northwest of the upper Midwest state, consists of 107 Zond Z-750 kW turbines and was constructed by the leading American wind company Enron Wind, part of the large Houston-based energy company Enron Corp. The turbines are the largest manufactured in the United States.

Owned and operated by Enron Wind, the project is selling electricity under a 20 year contract to IES Industries Inc, a subsidiary of the energy company Alliant Corp of Iowa. The project, unveiled on April 22, is the first part of a total of 192.75 MW of wind capacity to be installed at Storm Lake near the town of Alta in Iowa by June 30. Storm Lake II is in Buena Vista and Cherokee Counties.

"In just under seven months, we have added 80 megawatts of new green capacity to Iowa's energy mix," says Kenneth Karas, chairman and CEO of Enron Wind Corp of Tehachapi, California, formerly Zond Corp. "This project is a world class power facility, and, located in farm fields, truly demonstrates the versatility and compatibility of wind as a power source."

The first wave of modern American wind farms, in the Altamont, Tehachapi and San Gorgonio Passes in California, were often constructed on open range land most often not used for agriculture. Since then activity has spread to Minnesota, Iowa and even Oregon in the Pacific Northwest. As a result wind farming is being seen along side traditional agriculture for almost the first time in the US.

Storm Lake II will generate approximately 255,000 megawatt hours of clean energy a year, enough to power 36,000 average American households. If coal were burned instead, more than 130,000 tons would be required yearly. The project is expected to offset more than 392 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

Village transformation

Even before Storm Lake II was completed, it had transformed the local village of Alta. Installation of Storm Lake I, another 112.75 MW, will bring the total in the area up to 192.75 MW and can only bring more change. Alta mayor Ed Buckendahl refers to the wind farm as the main topic of conservation in the town, which has a population of 1800, according to a local newspaper. He welcomes the boost to the local economy. "While the construction is going on, a lot of workers are coming in and going to the cafes and stores. Housing is tight, so all the hotels in the area are being used," he says. "And for the future, I imagine we'll begin seeing tourists in here with people wanting to see the operation." Buckendahl had seen wind farms in California and thought they would be good for Iowa too.

Enron Wind Corp, which has a German subsidiary, Tacke Windenergie GmbH, has some 4,000 turbines operating under the Enron name, representing 1000 MW of installed capacity worldwide. Enron Corp owns approximately $30 billion in energy-related assets.

Alliant, of Cedar Rapids in Iowa, has already been involved in six small wind projects-of up to 2.25 MW-since 1996. Formed after the merger of three utilities, Alliant is also to buy electricity from the 42 MW Clear Lake project in Iowa, under construction by US energy giant FPL Energy, Danish finance house FORAS, and NEG Micon, a wind turbine manufacturer based in Denmark. It is the buyer too of green power from a 9 MW project, also near Alta, being developed jointly by Northern Alternative Energy of Minneapolis and Zond (Windpower Monthly, December 1998).

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