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Wind Power: MidAmerican's Intrepid Wind Farm

By Jeanette Joy Fisher

According to one of the Midwest's largest energy companies, there's no reason why Iowa, and the rest of the Great Plains states, as well, shouldn't become the Saudi Arabia of wind power. With that in mind, MidAmerican Energy isn't just talking about making that possibility become a reality; they're actively making sure that the wind power movement in the Midwest gets started in a very "powerful" way!

MidAmerican has erected 175 giant wind generators, each producing some 1.5 megawatts of energy, on their Intrepid wind farm, near Spirit Lake, in central Iowa. The company also plans to add another ten units, which will bring the facility up to the maximum amount of electricity the current transmission lines can accommodate.  

The blades on each turbine are 113 feet long and reach some 215 feet into the air. They're also somewhat vulnerable to lightning strikes, since they're tallest structures in the nearby vicinity. This can be a problem, since each blade costs approximately a quarter million dollars to replace. However, the amount of electricity and the opportunity to create a cleaner environment makes the risk well worthwhile.

Environmental Impact 

Making sure the wind farm made as gentle an environmental impact as possible was an important consideration. Therefore, when MidAmerican first began planning the Intrepid site, they worked closely with a number of state and national environmental groups. Using input from such diverse groups as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy, Iowa State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, MidAmerican created a statewide map of areas in the proposed region that contained specific bird populations or habitats. Those areas were then avoided as site planning got underway in earnest. In order to minimize the wind farm's environmental impact even further, MidAmerican also worked in conjunction with the Army Corp of Engineers, to secure all necessary permits related to any potential risk to wetlands in the area. Regular inspections are also conducted to make certain that the wind farm is causing no adverse environmental impact to the region.

The Intrepid wind farm is one of the largest land-based wind projects in the world, and provides a significant portion of MidAmerican's energy needs for the region--and there are no pollutants being released into the air as a result. Everyone wins, and if MidAmerican Energy has anything to say about it, and they do, their Spirit Lake wind farm is only the beginning!

Copyright 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher 

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