COLO — Parts of Iowa’s scenic backdrop often feature rows of 300-foot wind turbines propelling megawatts of wind energy throughout the state.
However, Nick Bierstedt, site manager of the Colo-based Story Wind LLC, often has to dispel misconceptions and innuendo about wind energy and wind turbines.
“The two common misconceptions about wind energy and wind turbines that we hear is that the turbines kill birds, and the other is that wind farms are noisy,” Bierstedt said. “We’ve invested research into the environmental studies at the site, and we really don’t see any effects to wildlife at the site. As far as noise goes, they don’t make any more noise than your average vehicle.”
The farm is operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, a Power 200 company that holds distinction as the top-rated company in the electric and gas utilities in the nation.
On Tuesday, state legislators embarked on an all-day tour of renewable energy facilities in Iowa. During their visit to Colo, they toured the Story Winds facility and got a snapshot of Iowa’s wind energy industry.
The group of legislators are a part of Future Iowa Caucus, a bipartisan group of state legislators age 40 and younger, included Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque; Rep. Joe Mitchell, R-Mount Pleasant; and Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville. The group was also joined by Democratic Representative-elect for Ames’ 46th District Ross Wilburn.
When state legislators asked how they can help the wind industry from a policy standpoint, Bierstedt said dispelling improper information about wind energy is essential.
“Honestly, it’s about spreading facts and dispelling rumors and negativity toward the industry,” Bierstedt said to the legislators during a roundtable discussion. “A lot of us have been around it, and have seen how the wind industry works and seen the facts ... I think there are a lot of things that get thrown out there and are taken for fact that aren’t true.”
Beginning operations in 2009, Story Wind is comprised of two wind energy centers (Story I and Story II) and, in addition to providing energy benefits to the county, they also have provided a wealth of economic benefits.
The farm has added $14 million in tax revenue to the county, and 24 percent of its wind energy is distributed into the city of Ames. The other 76 percent is distributed to Google data centers.
According to site statistics, the site can power 85,000 U.S. homes on average. In 2019, the farm will be undergoing the repowering process, a method of replacing older power stations with newer ones that either have a greater nameplate capacity or more efficiency.
Despite, the benefits from farms like Story Wind, the wind industry has faced a bit of brush-back from some counties in Iowa.
This week, the Madison County Board of Public Health went on record to say there are legitimate negative health effects caused by wind turbines.
The two health concerns identified were “flicker,” a headache and nausea-inducing side-effect attributed to the sun’s reflection off turbine blades; and infrasound, a soundwave just below what the ear can actually detect, that is also been described as causing headaches and nausea.
“Things like that can hurt the reputation of the industry and you can start to see those who invest in wind energy become a little more distant from wind energy,” Bierstedt said. “However, I would urge people to see the benefits that wind power not only has here in Iowa, but also in the entire nation.”