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Floyd County Board of Adjustment OK’s MET towers for wind energy project study

Floyd County Board of Adjustment OK’s MET towers for wind energy project study
The red dots mark the locations of three MET towers that will help Invenergy decide if and where a wind energy project is possible. Press graphic by Bob Steenso
By Bob Steenson,

The Floyd County Board of Adjustment on Wednesday morning approved conditional use permits for three “MET towers,” to be used to evaluate wind resources for a commercial wind energy project being proposed to be built west and south of Charles City.

The vote to approve the 80 meter (262½ feet) tall meteorological towers passed by a 3-1 vote, with board member Sean Pitkin absent and board member Wendy Johnson voting no.

Isaac Lamppa, the project manager for the proposed Floyd County Invenergy wind farm, said the company wouldn’t apply for permits to begin construction of wind energy turbines until “2027 at the earliest.”

He said the three MET towers are spaced within the proposed Marble Ridge Wind Energy Center project development area to collect wind speeds, directions and other data.

“The towers will help us decide if a wind energy project is possible,” he said.

Lamppa said the current area under consideration includes about 100,000 acres, but the actual area for the site could be much less than that. For example, the recently completed Chickasaw County wind project for which he was project manager only covers about 22,000 acres.

The MET towers will also help the company fine-tune if eventual wind turbines should be focused in a particular part of the proposed area.

The landowners where the MET towers will be placed have already signed easement agreements with Invenergy, and the Federal Aviation Administration has already issued a determination of no hazard, Lamppa said.

One person attending the public hearing on the conditional use permit requests said she was in favor of wind energy, but didn’t want the tower as close as it was proposed to the Century Farm that she and her sister own and operate and where their children and grandchildren play.

Myrna Pitkin said she was concerned that a wind turbine would be placed where the MET tower is after that tower is removed, and she is worried about the construction and increased traffic because of the MET tower.

Lamppa said a wind turbine is much taller than a MET tower and a turbine would not meet the setback requirements to be located where the MET tower is proposed near Pitkin’s property.

He said the only equipment needed to raise the tower is a small truck with a winch and there is no concrete foundation required – just a steel plate anchored to the ground with 8-inch ground screws. Guy wires will provide the required stability for the tower.

The tower can be installed in a couple of hours, and after that it should have minimal to no impact on neighbors, Lamppa said. The data the tower collects will be transmitted to the company wirelessly.

“We typically expect these towers to be only up for one to four years or so. We typically try to get at least two years, one to two years, of MET tower data, wind speed data, wind direction data, prior to tearing them down,” he said.

Responding to a question, Lamppa said the company will return the MET tower sites to their former agriculture use once they are decommissioned.

John Robbins, a senior planner with the North Iowa Area Council of Governments (NIACOG), who the county hired to help revise the county zoning ordinance regarding commercial wind power and commercial battery storage projects, said under Iowa law the Board of Adjustment can add requirements to grant a conditional use permit.

Among several other suggestions, he advised the board to require the tower have high-visibility guy wire sleeves and spherical ball markers to protect area crop dusters and other private aviation.

Lamppa said the FAA has already required those visibility devices.

The board approved the conditional use permits for the three MET towers with the additional requirements that proof of agreements with the landowners be provided, that the FAA approval be provided, that the towers be decommissioned (removed) by the company at the end of their useful life and that area crop dusters and their companies be notified that the towers are being installed.

Board members Teresa Stevens-Marth, Rick Cordes and Scott Tjaden voted in favor of the motion, and member Wendy Johnson voted against.

When asked after the meeting why she had opposed the permits, Johnson said that as a farmer she wants to protect farmland.

“We want to grow food and fuel and fiber, and I feel like we’re becoming an industrial park,” she said, with all the proposals for pipelines and wind projects and potentially solar projects on ag land.

She noted the several wind turbines that had been destroyed by tornadoes in the state on Tuesday, and said it made her wonder if Iowa is the right place for wind energy projects.

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