LEE COUNTY – A private energy firm is looking at northwest Lee County for an up to 400-megawatt wind farm.
An official with Tenaska, an independent energy firm headquartered in Omaha, Neb. confirmed the project is underway, but in the very early stages.
“We’re very early in development. Size of that project is up to 400 megawatts contingent upon securing land rights and getting interconnection rights that will enable us to move forward,” said Kyle Gerking, a Tenaska project manager out of Omaha.
“We’re on the front end of that. We intend to come meet the Board of Supervisors and other local decision makers as we believe in being transparent with our development. We’ll introduce the project and let them know what’s going on.”
Lee County landowner Andrew Johnson brought the project to the attention of Lee County Supervisors Monday morning as part of a discussion about future zoning and setbacks for utility projects.
Johnson, who was at the center of the opposition to land grabs under eminent domain for Navigator’s Heartland Greenway CO2 pipeline, said the county has some time now to look at setbacks for landowners. The Navigator pipeline project has been halted and all activities around the project has been stopped.
“I don’t think that project is dead by any means, but the county has some time now to do something,” Johnson said.
Board President Garry Seyb said any time the county kicks around the idea of zoning on private land, they ultimately face opposition.
“No landowner in the county wants us telling them what to do with their land,” Seyb said. “Anytime we do that, we get phone calls.”
Supervisor Matt Pflug said he could about guarantee that the county will get some opposition to zoning.
But Johnson said he can see why people don’t want the government telling them what to do or allowing for zoning, but he said setbacks could be something to be discussed.
Pflug asked Johnson if he would support any form of zoning or setbacks. Johnson said if was framed right, he could get behind it.
Supervisor Chuck Holmes suggested that the Lee County Farm Bureau get together and provide some guidance to the county in the form of a statement outlining what they may be looking for.
Most of the opposition to the Navigator project was around eminent domain and the dangers of a pipeline rupture.
Gerking said, at this point, Tenaska and Cordelio Power plan on obtaining voluntary easements in the project and won’t use eminent domain.
“We’ve just started talking with landowners to see if there’s interest,” Gerking said. “We are a private developer and don’t have eminent domain capability. We are seeking voluntary easements and feedback has been positive.”
When told that the Navigator pipeline was a private project that had to go through the Iowa Utility Board, Gerking said they are still developing the list of any local, state, and federal permitting that the project may need to acquire.
“One of the things we kick off with is a critical issue analysis and we’re just on the front edge here, so we haven’t even done that yet,” he said.
He said the project would have a footprint of 20,000 to 40,000 acres, but only 50 to 100 acres of land would be taken out of production. He said the project would be in northwest Lee County and, at this point, not in any other county.
“That could evolve as our land acquisition matures, but as of now it’s entirely within the county,” Gerking said.
Cordelio Power and Tenaska have a joint development agreement. Tenasaka has 35 years of experience as an independent power producer, developing natural gas-fired, clean coal, and renewable generation facilities. Gerking said Cordelio Power is a relatively new company, focusing on renewable energy development in select United States and Canadian Markets. He said Cordelio would be the long-term operator and owner of the project. Tenaska serves to augment the Cordelio staff and support the upfront development.
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