A wind turbine entrepreneur says it’s time for Iowa to take some of the steps taken in Minnesota in order to position the state as a leader in the wind energy industry. Ed Woolsey of Prole, president of Green Prairie Energy, lobbies legislators on behalf of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association.

Woolsey says Iowa needs to embark on a plan to have more wind turbines owned by regular citizens rather than big utility companies so the profits from wind energy stay in local Iowa communities. "These large corporations are able to very effectively invest in their legislation and their legislators and unfortunately we haven’t been able to rally the general populace to the point where their voices are heard," Woolsey says.

Woolsey says the state of Minnesota is helping build high-power transmission lines to link small wind turbines scattered throughout the state to the Twin Cities and it’s time to mimic that here. "It takes about seven years from the planning stage, financing, finding the right-of-ways and building large scale transmission (and) we’re able to build wind systems faster than that," Woolsey says. "So, if we start now with doing the planning for the large scale transmission as well as start putting in some distributed generation, smaller wind farms — ones, twos and threes the way the Europeans have — on the existing distribution line capacity, the smaller lines, we can go in both those parallel paths."

Tom Wind, a wind energy consultant based in Jefferson, Iowa, says Minnesota policymakers have incentives in place to encourage small towns, farmers and even colleges to put up a wind turbine and produce their own electricity, plus send any excess to the Twin Cities, Minnesota’s metropolitan center.

"The State of Minnesota has kind of advanced beyond what Iowa has done," Wind says. "The State of Minnesota has planned these transmission lines and very effectively have got some permitted and they’re building them right now, but the State of Iowa has not yet done that." He says one of the hurdles is that it’s hard to buy just one wind turbine as turbines are in such demand that big companies ordering dozens at a time get priority.