Company proposes $40 million upgrade to Delaware County wind farm

A large windmill towers over a rural farmstead west of Greeley, Iowa, in 2017. PHOTO CREDIT: Telegraph Herald

GREELEY, Iowa — A company that purchased a Delaware County wind farm earlier this year is proposing a major upgrade to it.

Greenbacker Renewable Energy Co. now owns Elk Wind Farm in the Greeley area and proposes repowering all 17 wind turbines at a cost of $40 million to $45 million. That plan recently was shared during a county Board of Supervisors meeting.

While the supervisors took no action and no formal application was submitted, Justin Fike, a consultant working on behalf of Greenbacker, explained the plans.

Greenbacker would keep all existing infrastructure on the ground, including access roads, underground power lines, concrete foundations and the steel towers.

The company would replace the nacelle that sits on top of the tower as well as replace each turbine with new, longer blades.

Fike told the supervisors that the current, 100-meter-diameter blades would be replaced with 127-meter blades.

“That equates to having 63 % more surface area, meaning we could take the same wind and, over the course of a year, generate between 20% and 25% more energy,” he said.

While acknowledging the size of the investment, Fike said it would cut down on larger maintenance issues for 10 to 15 years. He also said it is the right time for the upgrade.

“If you look around the country right now, there are a lot of projects that are eight to 12 years of age that are pursuing repowers,” he said. “While the project is perfectly functional and capable of running 20 to 30 more years, there is also a lot of benefit of a repower in the eight-to-12-year range.”

While the current turbines are Nordex, Greenbacker proposes to replace them with General Electric turbines. Fike said the company would prefer replacing all 17 turbines as opposed to having two different companies each maintaining their units.

“Both companies would be concerned with their intellectual property,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to have half the equipment run by one group and the other half by another.”

Fike said the company is in the early stages of reaching out to landowners, something the supervisors said was important.

Fike said Greenbacker hopes to have a formal request for the supervisors in the next couple of months.

“We heard from the Board of Supervisors loud and clear that they want to make sure landowners are treated fairly,” he said. “We look to make sure things are tracking along well with the landowners and will be preparing the formal application in parallel to that.”

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