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Zoned Out: Removing Barriers to Wind Energy in Iowa

According to the Center for Rural Affairs, the process of permitting new wind energy projects could be streamlined with a single source of approval. Credit: axnjax.
According to the Center for Rural Affairs, the process of permitting new wind energy projects could be streamlined with a single source of approval. Credit: axnjax.
July 30, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa is already among the nation's leaders in wind energy, but a new report points to changes that the state could make to turn what can still sometimes be a stormy process for new operations into much more of a breeze. The study is from the Center for Rural Affairs.

Energy and Climate Program Associate Lu Nelson with the Center for Rural Affairs says instead of a dual approach of needing both local and state zoning approval, Iowa should consider going with a single source of oversight.

"That would take applications, that can approve permits and that would set a firm timeline for the process, but then find a place where local communities can come in and weigh in on the project."

Iowa already gets about 27 percent of its energy from wind power and the latest industry estimates say that could surpass 40 percent by 2020.

Nelson says it's important Iowa try to streamline the process in the short-term with the federal plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants due out this summer, possibly as early as next week.

"As wind is continuing to get cheaper and as we know that there will be some desire to invest even more in wind energy with the EPA Clean Power Plan," he says. "It's good to begin planning this sort of thing now and looking at how we can improve before we're having to backtrack and make up for not preparing."

Nelson says another suggestion in the report to improve the process is with the creation of a state map that lays out which areas would be best for wind energy, taking into account wildlife, the environment and the ability to link into transmission.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA