Congratulations to Floyd and Johnson Counties – Iowa’s first Small Wind Innovation Zones!

An example of a small wind turbine

Small wind innovation zone status will help residents in Johnson and Floyd Counties own their own piece of Iowa's renewable energy future with wind turbines like this one. (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/user: tswind)

The Iowa Utilities Board has officially designated Floyd and Johnson Counties as the first two Small Wind Innovation Zones in the state. The Iowa legislature created the Small Wind Innovation Zones in 2009 (HF 810) to encourage local governments to be friendly to small-scale wind turbines – those turbines up to 100 kW in capacity. Thanks to the leadership and hard work of local elected officials and leaders, these counties will be among the best places in Iowa to install a small wind turbine.

To become a zone, the city, county, or other political subdivision must do several things. First, it must adopt a model ordinance (opens as a .doc) that expedites the review and approval of small wind systems that homeowners, farmers, small businesses, and other prospective owners want to install. Second, the utility or utilities serving the area must adopt (or at least formally consider adopting) a model interconnection agreement that facilitates connecting the small wind turbine to the grid.

By becoming a Small Wind Innovation Zone, residents and businesses interested in developing a small wind system benefit from the friendly local ordinance, a good interconnection agreement, and a small tax incentive under Iowa’s existing wind production tax incentive program. However, since this legislation was passed, those tax credits have become more popular, and it is unclear if any will be available for new small wind projects. This may need to be addressed by the legislature this year.

The legislation specifically named the Council as one of the key stakeholders to develop the model ordinance. The Council convened a series of meetings in 2009 and 2010 with the League of Cities, Association of Counties, Iowa Wind Energy Association, and other stakeholders to develop the ordinance. The Council also worked to develop model interconnection rules at the Iowa Utilities Board that support the Small Wind Innovation Zone program, which were formally adopted in 2010.

Some Iowa communities have adopted bans or significant restrictions on small wind systems in recent years. By hampering renewable energy development, these restrictions will prevent those communities from realizing the environmental benefits of wind and other forms of renewable energy. Just as troubling is the loss of local economic development and business opportunities for existing – or new – renewable energy businesses, including dealers, manufacturers, installers, contractors, engineers, and more.

We look forward to seeing new small wind projects move ahead in Floyd and Johnson Counties, along with the local environmental and economic benefits those projects will bring with them.

For more information:  Read the Iowa Utilities Board’s orders designating Johnson County and Floyd County as Small Wind Innovation Zones.

This post written by Iowa Environmental Council Energy Program Director Nathaniel Baer.

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