For years, Iowa has worked to develop its generation of electricity by wind power. The question and concern that many had about these investments was how would this new energy get to where it was needed?
New transmission lines and storage facilities will need to be developed, and the first of these, the proposed Rock Island Clean Line, received preliminary approval last week from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
This transmission line will bring wind generated power from Northwest Iowa east into Illinois. You may recall that Plymouth County was among the areas vying for a converter station that would convert alternating current (AC) power coming out of a wind farm into direct current (DC) and send it along the line.
O'Brien County ended up getting the converter station, which is still good news for Plymouth County.
The days of stealing jobs from one community or county passing for economic development is, we hope, over. A regional approach that markets multiple communities and counties is now being advocated. The thought behind this is that when a region is viewed as a whole, the strengths of the bigger picture become apparent to the prospective industry.
Truth be told, it is better for all involved. Worker training, pay and quality of life issues all improve when new firms locate in Northwest Iowa.
When we learned just over a year ago that the converter station would not be in Plymouth County, officials from the Rock Island Clean Line commented that the true economic impact would come from the wind turbines. Now that the transmission line has passed this first step in the regulatory approval process, there is a clear and defined market for wind energy from Northwest Iowa.
That means that wind projects will have less risk, and hopefully greater and more sustained rewards.
Now that Iowa ranks second in the nation in wind generated electricity (we're coming for you, Texas) this encouraging development may open even more new opportunities for us all.