Small Wind Innovation Zone
In 2009, the Iowa Legislature directed the Iowa Utilities Board to establish and administer a Small Wind Innovation Zone program to optimize local, regional and state benefits from wind energy and to expedite interconnection of small wind energy conversion systems (100 kilowatts or less) with electric utilities throughout the state. In 2010, the Iowa Utilities Board established a state-wide incentive program to encourage small wind installation, and worked with others to release a model small wind ordinance.
In 2012, Linn County was designated a Small Wind Innovation Zone (SWIZ) by the Iowa Utilities Board. The designation allows owners of small wind energy conversion systems (100 kilowatts or less) to take advantage of an expedited local approval process. To obtain the designation, Linn County amended its zoning standards to conform to the model ordinance published by the Iowa Utilities Board.
Linn County stated the following goals when the decision was made to pursue the designation:
- Optimize local, regional, and state benefits from wind energy;
- Facilitate and expedite the local approval of small wind energy conversion systems;
- Facilitate and expedite interconnection of small wind energy conversion systems with electric utility providers;
- Increase the energy independence of Linn County;
- Encourage small wind energy companies to do business in Linn County; and
- Incentivize property owners to construct small wind energy conversion systems.
The designation allows owners of small wind energy conversion systems to take advantage of a streamlined interconnection agreement with rate regulated electrical utility providers. Several non-rate regulated electrical utility providers have indicated that they will voluntarily offer interconnection agreements similar to the standardized agreements used by the rate regulated utility providers. The streamlined interconnection agreement makes it easier for homeowners with a small wind turbine to connect to the grid and therefore, take advantage of existing programs that may be offered by their utility providers like net metering to reduce their monthly energy costs.
Wind Farm Suitability Study
In 2018, Linn County entered into a partnership with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) to undertake a wind farm suitability study. Wind farms, while predominantly located in northwestern Iowa, may begin to expand to the eastern side of the state with advances in technology. While wind energy is a popular option for sustainable power, it also requires the placement of large wind turbines that are expensive and can be logistically challenging to site.
This analysis will identify current technologies and trends, as well as federal, state, and local-level plans, and conclude whether a utility-scale wind farm would be feasible for Linn County. The study is currently in progress.