Wind energy Acciona plans $20M wind power project near West Branch

Acciona is one step closer to installing two new wind turbines near West Branch after receiving a $3 million grant for the project from the Iowa Power Fund. Acciona has operated a wind turbine manufacturing plant in West Branch since 2007.

Amy Berry, director of marketing and communications for the company, said the wind turbines would be the first of their kind in the United States. The company is installing 1.5-mega-watt wind turbines at wind farm project sites around the U.S. now but is interested in using larger, 3-megawatt wind turbines, Berry said.

“It’s a larger version,” she said. “The larger your rotor diameter, the larger the system and the more wind energy you would capture.” The larger wind turbines are already being manufactured and installed in other countries, Berry said, but they need to go through a commercialization process in the United States.

She said Iowa is a favorable area for Acciona to build for a number of reasons, including the state’s dedication to wind power. “There’s a great commitment to wind energy, and it’s centrally located, which helps with logistics and transportation,” Berry said. “It’s also about having access to a great supply chain in the Midwest.”

Acciona’s manufacturing plant employs 118 people, but Berry said if the commercialization is successful and the company moves forward with producing and install more large wind turbines, they will be manufactured at the West Branch facility, which she said would likely mean adding jobs at the plant. Berry wasn’t immediately sure how many jobs that would be.

“It’s a great economic story for the area,” Berry said. The cost of the project is about $19 million, she said. Acciona does not have a timeline for when the wind turbines will be constructed, but Berry said once they begin, it is about a six-month process.

Acciona’s wind power project is one of several being considered locally. Nadicom – North American Ductile Iron Company – announced earlier this week it plans to build an iron foundry in Iowa City in the city’s Wind Energy Supply Chain Campus.

As wind turbine manufacturing and wind energy production discussions move forward locally, government officials are grappling with how to regulate the industry and address some public concerns about turbines. Berry said that, for the most part, Acciona has received favorable responses to the plan. The company has held a public forum and is working to address questions involving wind energy and wind turbines, she said.