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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Let wind power new fuels plants

With a wave of biodiesel and ethanol energy industry developments across the region, attention has been focused away from the over 250 wind turbines scattered across the Buena Vista County landscape.

There is a bright opportunity for more expansion in the local wind energy field as well in the near future, local officials agree.

The wind energy market is still looking for expansion, according to Ken Hach, an industry professional who helped to bring the windfarms to the area. In particular, European companies are looking to come to areas of the U.S. to set up plants to manufacture components for the growing wind energy industry.

"This would be a good expansion for our industry," Hach said. "The European companies are looking at expanding different areas of manufacturing over here."

According to Hach, the wind energy development is not going anywhere, especially if the European companies invest into the Iowa landscape.

"If the production part of the wind industry expands then new jobs will be created with new plants," Hach said.

Hach is supportive of the fuels plants moving into the area this year and does not feel they will hamper the wind prospects here.

"I do not see wind energy leaving here any time in the future," Hach added. "The wind is always free."

Newly-elected member of the House of Representatives Gary Worthan also stresses the importance of wind energy to the local economy, and wants to make sure it is not forgotten in the new rush to alternative fuels.

"It seems like every time you pick up a paper you read about a new wind farm going up," Worthan said. "With European companies wanting to come over here, we should try to get them to come to Iowa."

According to Executive Director of Storm Lake Area Development Corporation Gary Lalone, two European plants are set for Cedar Rapids and Muscatine but has not yet heard of any discussion about any European manufactures looking at the Storm Lake area.

"People in this area are still think about wind energy," Lalone said. "They still dive past the windmills everyday."

Lalone also said that federal and state mandates change over time and that the requirements have changed twice during the wind energy development of the area. Future changes in regulation and incentives could boost or slow development in any of the alternative energy industries that have come to the area.

Former Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors Shairman Bill Lanphere doesn't feel that the wind turbines are being fully utilized yet.

"I'm not an expert, but I see some of these windmills without generators on them and it's not like we don't have enough wind to run them. We do not have enough people who are using the power generated," Lanphere said.

Lanphere also doesn't think that the wind farms will go by the side as ethanol and biodiesel have been growing in the county.

"Alternative fuels and wind energy are two different areas," Lanphere said. "Maybe the new plants can use the wind to power them up."

Technology can also play a part in the expansion, according to Lanphere.

"We need to work on better ways to store the power," Lanphere said. "The wind doesn't blow every day, so if we could work on more storage then it would be a development to encourage everyone's use of this renewable energy source. We also need to continue to make improvements in the technology."

Lanphere sees room for expansion locally in wind energy and expressed hope that it does grow.

"There's always room for expansion. There is a certain percent of people who use the energy created by the wind, and that can increase," Lanphere said. "But not everyone uses it, so if we can get more companies and people using that power then we will be expanding greatly. Only if everyone one day is using wind power will there be no more room for expansion."

According to the Department of Energy, use of electricity generated from wind turbines has more then tripled since 1998 across the country. Local wind energy developments began in 1999 with two of the world's larger windfields now spread across windy "Buffalo Ridge" in the area.

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