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Alliant meets with Franklin County officials on $1 billion wind farm expansion

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Franklin County wind

Alliant Energy announced Wednesday a $1 billion expansion of the Whispering Willow Wind farm just south of Hampton.

HAMPTON — Alliant Energy officials offered new details on a proposed wind farm expansion south of Hampton in a meeting with Franklin County officials Friday morning.

On Wednesday, the company announced its proposed $1 billion expansion of Whispering Willow Wind Farm in Franklin County.

The initial proposal calls for an expansion west of the current wind farm, slated to produce about 200 megawatts of energy, said Ben Lipari, Alliant Energy’s senior manager for project development.

Lipari said if approved, the construction phase would employ 300 construction workers on the site. Additional jobs would be created in a ripple effect with contractors and other construction during the course of the project, he said.

If approved, Lipari said the company plans to finalize its design and have a construction proposal ready in 2017. Construction would begin in spring 2018, with the wind farm going into operation in early 2019, he said.

Once construction is completed, Alliant officials estimated it would have a staff about equal to Whispering Willow Wind Farm currently — between 16 to 20 employees, including eight Alliant workers and nine contract employees.

Company officials said they want to build within their current land agreements.

They plan to hold a meeting for public input in August, as well as a separate meeting with landowners. Neither date has been set.

County officials praised the announcement.

“It’s extremely good for Franklin County,” said Supervisor Gary McVicker. “It helps us get over the loss of the Prestage pork plant.”

Whispering Willow Wind Farm, which spans 33,000 acres, began commercial operation in late 2009 and boasts 121 turbines with a capacity to generate 200 megawatts, or enough to power about 50,000 homes, according to the utility’s website.

Alliant’s five-year plan is to add up to 500 megawatts to the wind farm. The project will generate “tens of millions of dollars in property taxes” and result in more than 1,500 jobs at the height of construction, according to a statement issued Wednesday.

Alliant is seeking regulatory approval for the Whispering Willow expansion and will possibly develop wind energy in other parts of the state, according to Alliant Chief Executive Officer Patricia Kampling.

It is part of a five-year project but Alliant is seeking approval now to maximize the the value of renewable energy tax credits, she said. The company also plans to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent from 2005 to 2030.

This is the second major expansion of wind energy enterprises in Iowa in the past three months.

In April, MidAmerican Energy, which serves parts of North Iowa, announced a $3.6 billion plan to add 1,000 wind turbines in Iowa.

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