Carbon emissions are still rising and we have a lot of work to do. But at least alternative energy sources are proving their worth quite emphatically! Here’s a positive example of what communities can do – from around the world, since wind energy is now truly global with significant projects on all inhabited continents.
Electric Harvest: How Group of Iowa Farmers Got Into the Wind Business
In rural Iowa, there’s a whole lot of corn, cows, and also wind turbines. Iowa is second only to Texas for spinning up renewable wind energy, with a power generation capacity of around 4,495-megawatts. Every watt counts. This week, 180 residents of two small Iowa towns, Greenfield (population 2,100) and Fontanelle (population 700), pooled their money to buy shares in six new GE wind turbines and add 9.6 megawatts to their grid.
The town of Greenfield installed its first two wind turbines, which are part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio, three years ago. “I was just interested in [wind] and wanted to become a part of that,” says Randy Caviness, the manager of Meadow Ridge Wind Energy in Greenfield that will add one of the new turbines.
For Caviness, the expansion makes a lot of sense. “We have a favorable climate, in the literal sense, with the wind,” he says. “And number two, the State has been very supportive of it with tax incentives.”
Iowa offers a 10-year tax credit for small wind power projects generating less than 2.5 megawatts, and local counties provide property tax incentives for the first seven years. Each turbine generates benefits from tax credits, land lease royalty payments, property taxes and dividends. Those benefits total $1.08 million annually over a period of 10 years. The rewards go directly back to the community, and Caviness points out that the incentives make wind energy economically competitive with other sources of power.
The eight combined wind turbines will produce 12.6 megawatts of renewable wind energy, enough to power around 3,000 households, businesses and farmsteads. The owners will sell their surplus energy to Central Iowa Power Cooperative, the regional power distributor.
GE points to Greenfield and Fontanelle as role models for the rest of the country. “Ten percent of U.S. states generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind, with Iowa as one of the leaders at 19 percent,” says Vic Abate, GE’s vice president of renewable energy. “The community wind energy initiative in Iowa represents and important model for other towns and communities to learn from.”