Winter winds will generate electricity for Ames, ISU

The winds of January are a good thing if you’re getting electricity from a wind farm, and that’s the case for the City of Ames and Iowa State University. The city and university will begin buying wind energy generated electricity from a new wind farm north of Zearing. Around the first of the year, local appliances, lights, and computers may be powered by a new, eco-friendly energy source and wind turbines.

The timing is excellent, says ISU assistant director of utilities Jeff Witt, because "winter is the best time for wind energy in Iowa and January is probably the peak month."

Ames and Iowa State officials plan to buy enough wind power to supply 30 megawatts of output for Ames and six megawatts for ISU. That’s more than 15 percent of Ames’ electricity needs and approximately 10 percent of Iowa State’s needs.

The electricity comes from a 100-turbine, 150-megawatt farm recently constructed by NextEra Energy Resources, the top generator of wind power in North America. The new wind farm is the second such farm that NextEra has built in the area and the firm’s eighth in Iowa.

"The City of Ames has a long history of supporting new energy technologies including our first in the nation waste-to-energy facility," explains Donald Kom, director of Ames Electric Services. "Adding wind energy helps bolster our portfolio of renewable fuels."

Witt said Iowa State officials look forward to adding wind power to the university’s energy lineup. There will be some challenges to utilities staff, who will need to balance wind conditions with electricity needs, he said, but "it’s a good thing and we’re pretty excited."

Ames and Iowa State have been partnering to buy electricity since the early 1990s and began looking for a renewable energy source a couple of years ago. After reviewing proposals from companies that generate energy from wind, biomass and the sun, they chose NextEra and subsequently developed a 20-year contract for wind energy.