FAIRBANK | A Des Moines-based energy company has chosen a path of lesser resistance and will build a three-turbine wind farm near Fairbank.
Optimum Renewables, on behalf of Mason Wind LLC, withdrew its request for a special permit from Black Hawk County zoning officials to develop a site near Dunkerton before a hearing Tuesday night.
The project faced heavy opposition from surrounding property owners.
Now the company is building the turbines just east of Fairbank, having secured approval from the Fayette County Board of Adjustment on Monday night.
Construction got underway Thursday.
“We will be using the Fayette County site in lieu of the Dunkerton site,” said John Boorman, managing director of Optimum Renewables. The company already has 11 turbines operating on three sites near Mason City, Dyersville and Perry.
A deciding factor was Fayette County's timeliness in approving the project, Boorman said.
"The Fayette site was the first to be fully approved with building permits in hand," he said.
The new site is east of Fairbank on the north side of Iowa Highway 281.
“We have met with many people surrounding the Fairbank area,” Boorman said. “Between the signed landowner agreements and resident agreements at the potential locations, we have garnered support from over 30 individuals and families. We are pleased so many people have expressed support for the projects.”
Optimum Renewables said the project will add an estimated $2.4 million in taxes over 30 years, including $1.3 million for the Wapsie Valley Community School District.
Building in Dunkerton would have cost more, Boorman said, but the company would have proceeded at that site had the project been approved earlier this fall.
Boorman said he met with the Dunkerton City Council, and it voted unanimously to back the project and sent a letter to Black Hawk County voicing support.
“They see the positive economic and environmental benefits of the project,” Boorman said. "Dunkerton Community School District is funded through its property tax base. The schools would have received about $1.3 million over the 30-year-life of the project from these turbines.”
Optimum Renewables sought to erect the 444-foot-tall towers on farm land about 1.25 miles northeast of Dunkerton near the intersection of East Bennington and Wheeler roads.
A similar request to develop the project near the Black Hawk-Buchanan County line was rejected by the county Board of Adjustment on Aug. 25 after more than 100 residents voiced concern.
Opponents said the turbines would take farm land out of production, lower surrounding property values, hinder farming operations and kill birds and other wildlife. Some were concerned about human health impacts.
The company also was rejected at two sites in Fayette County and a site in Buchanan County before trying to win approval in Black Hawk.
“Yes, there has been some opposition, but mainly from a small group of individuals who have been dead-set against any of the proposed sites for these three wind turbines,” Boorman said. “However, they don't represent the majority opinion of the people my colleagues and I have met with.”