Iowa Harnesses Wind Energy

Friday, October 17, 2008

By Briana Byrd
The Daily Iowan

Interstate 80 is littered - but not with trash.

Rather, semi trucks carrying 70-foot blades and wind turbines are filling the roadway.

"In the last four years, there have been so many units produced in the state of Iowa … that they're constantly littering our highway," said Barry Butler, the dean of the UI College of Engineering to a group of 25 at T Spoons on Thursday. "That's a good sign for us and a good sign for the country as well."

"The overall concept is interesting," said John Yoder, a farmer who lives three miles north of Wellman, Iowa. "We have a grass-roots interest, because we live on a farm and there's a proposed wind project in our neighborhood."

Iowa's growth in wind energy mirrors that of the nation. In the last year, more than 40 wind energy facilities opened or expanded - including one in West Branch, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Iowa has launched what the U.S. Department of Energy called "one of the country's most aggressive energy-efficiency and renewable-energy campaigns."

"People will always need energy - it's not a fad," said Kyle Soukup, a West Branch city administrator. "To have wind, which is proven to be clean and fairly reliable, as a cornerstone in Iowa is never a bad thing. Wind has been around for a long time and will continue to be around."

Soukup said Iowa's abundant farm land can be used for wind turbines and draw in a number of higher-paying jobs.

The West Branch administrator noted that the wind plant in West Branch has affected the area in three major ways: job creation, increased property values, and continued economic development. And it's these areas that drew a crowd to the Iowa City discussion Thursday.

City High senior Ian Corbin - the youngest person at the event - said he's fascinated by wind energy.

"We're interested in renewable energy and what's being done to encourage new projects in Iowa," he said.

And for Corbin, interest in alternative energy is a family passion.

"Our company's interested in clean green energy and puts geo-thermal heating and air conditioning in our home and shop," said Tom Randall, the owner of Randall Electric and Corbin's brother. "I'm interested in what kinds of advances have been made in wind energy, specifically in light commercial and industrial installations."

And based on the state's increased amount of wind energy, the issue may be something Iowans will think more about in the future. © Copyright 2008 Daily Iowan.