Feenstra gets close view of renewable energy projects
By DOUGLAS BURNS
State Sen. Randy Feenstra hit a trifecta of renewable energy spots Tuesday in a sweeping visit of west-central Iowa during which he talked with farmers and energy providers on what he sees as among the more important economic collaborations for a region he hopes to represent in Congress.
Feenstra, the Hull Republican running in the 4th Congressional District, joined representatives from the Conservative Energy Forum at MidAmerican Energy’s wind farm north of Carroll, near Breda, where he also toured Raccoon Valley Electric Cooperative’s community solar project. The state senator also spent time at the Western Iowa Energy Biodiesel plant in Wall Lake.
“The Lord has blessed us with wind and solar and crops and we can store energy,” Feenstra said.
The Conservative Energy Forum partnered with Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions for National Clean Energy Week from Sept. 21-25.
Carroll Broadcasting Farm Services Director Von Ketelsen, a member of the forum, joined prominent farmer Ray Gaesser of Corning and former Iowa GOP chairman David Oman of Des Moines, who are also forum members, on the Tuesday tour. State Rep. Brian Best, R-Glidden, and Craig Williams of Manning, a state Senate candidate, participated in the tour as well.
Nearly 80 percent of conservatives support an increase in electric generation from renewable energy, according to the forum.
Feenstra, if elected, will seek a spot on the Agriculture Committee and wants to build bipartisan support for more commodity-and-farm-boosting renewable energy.
Iowa is off to a good start with that as 61.3 percent of MidAmerican’s electric generation in the state comes from renewable sources, said Adam Jablonski, director of renewable energy for the investor owned utility.
“We have been able to attract a lot of businesses,” Jablonski said near one of the 100 turbines in the Carroll Wind Farm.
MidAmerican has wind-energy projects in 32 Iowa counties.
The turbines in the Carroll Wind Farm, 400 feet tall, collectively generate enough electricity to power 50,000 Iowa homes.
Each turbine takes about a half acre of land, and they begin generating power at wind speeds of 7 mph.
In Wall Lake, Western Iowa Energy, which opened the plant in 2006, can produce 45 million gallons of biodiesel annually. WIE has more than 500 investors and is working to get a second plant running in California.
The plant is looking at expanding its rail capability in Wall Lake to boost production, said Mike Altmanshofer, vice president of operations for WIE, which employs between 25 and 30 people and seeks to be the “employer of choice” for Sac County.
The RVEC community solar uses 588 panels to generate enough power for 15 to 20 homes. The cooperative is repairing 32 panels damaged in the recent storm.
“Renewable energy makes sense,” Gaesser said to the energy providers. “It doesn’t matter what party you are. You all have add profitability to farmers and agriculture.”