Iowa Senator Visits Wiota Wind Farm Receiving USDA Rural Development Funding

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin got an up-close look at Iowa’s newest community-owned wind turbine. With an American flag snapping in the breeze, he marked the project, the investors and the opportunity for wealth creation via renewable energy in a town of 116 in southwest Iowa.

Harkin and USDA Rural Development State Director Bill Menner visited the 1.5 megawatt hours (MWh) wind turbine to celebrate its completion earlier this spring. The $3 million project required 22 local investors and a loan guarantee from USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Harkin called REAP a catalyst for rural communities and small businesses.

Since 2002, USDA Rural Development has awarded $177 million in guaranteed loans and grants to help more than 1,500 small businesses and producers in Iowa develop biofuels, install renewable energy systems such as wind turbines, geothermal and solar, and reduce energy costs by making energy-efficiency improvements.

The Wiota wind turbine will generate electricity over the next 25 years that will power the community and provide important investment revenue to the local shareholders.

A power purchase agreement will send electricity from the turbine to three substations belonging to Farmers Electric Cooperative’s, the City of Fontanelle and the City of Greenfield. All of the remaining power generated will be purchased by Central Iowa Power Cooperative, the regional power distributor, which will provide the power to other nearby communities.

Harkin compared the investment in renewable energy to farming where local producers take a natural resource, in this case the wind, add value to it, and sell it on the open market. He said the idea that local investors, not large corporations or out-of-state investors, are leading the effort bodes well for the economic vitality of rural communities like Wiota.

Menner added this project is another example of the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to developing domestic energy sources.

By Darin Leach, USDA Rural Development, public information coordinator in Iowa,