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Talks on Iowa wind farm contract

The Midwest state of Iowa might see as much as 60 MW of wind power if a current proposal goes ahead. The proposed wind farm -- backed primarily by Zond Systems Inc and also by Windtricity of California -- would be sited near the town of Alta on Buffalo Ridge, says Ty McNeal of local company WindWay Technologies, which is also joining in the development.

Wind power development is emerging as a significant force in the upper Midwest. Various plans are afoot in Minnesota and Iowa on Buffalo Ridge, one of the windiest spots, ranging from Zond's small municipal installation at Waverly in Iowa to Northern Natural Power's 23 MW of power in northwest Minnesota to the 25 MW Kenetech wind farm now going in the ground for Northern States Power also on Buffalo Ridge.

In this latest project, negotiations to sell power to Midwest Power, a utility based in Des Moines, have been ongoing for a number of months, confirms the utility's John McNeal. Although "not much" is currently going on in the talks, the utility is optimistic. "There are some issues we are trying to resolve," he cautions. Midwest Power, the electric division of Midwest Power Systems, sells to 420,000 customers mostly in Iowa and also in a small part of South Dakota.

The 120 turbines used would be 500 kW turbines of Zond's choice, says McNeal. Planning is in the early stages. The go-ahead was given during a zoning meeting in late November for one of the 25 landowners who will have to agree to and get permission for the $60 million wind farm. The developers hope to start the project in the spring, says McNeal. Legislation was recently passed in Iowa for a "2% law" which dictates that investor-owned utilities must spend 2% of their funds on alternative power.

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