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County to petition IUB rules change regard local authority for solar, wind projects

Ames Tribune

The Story County Board of Supervisors will address topics of portable radios and renewable energy during its special 8:30 a.m. meeting today.

Board to petition to Iowa Utilities Board

The board will address its concerns regarding proposed rule changes from the Iowa Utilities Board which would affect the county's jurisdictional power to approve renewable projects without IUB approval.

In May, the IUB drafted rules that would make them a sole authority to approve wind and solar energy projects in the state. Officials with the IUB told the Tribune the proposed changes are in a "stakeholder comment" stage, which the IUB often uses to gauge early reaction before formally proposing rules under the timelines in the Iowa Administrative Procedures Act.

Since 1997, wind projects in Iowa with less than 25 megawatts of capacity did not need approval from the IUB. All they needed was approval from county authorities -- namely county boards of supervisors.

In a draft letter to the members of the IUB, the county supervisors said that the proposed rule changes would "create significant burdens" to the county and future development of wind and solar projects in the county.

In Story County, regulations for renewable projects are processed through a conditional use permit, which provides applicants with height, distance and noise requirements for incoming wind turbines.

The county is home to Story County Wind Farms, a 300-megawatt wind energy farm with two locations, and in the supervisors' letter to the IUB, they said that the proposed change would circumvent the county's ability to generate revenue for wind projects.

In 2019, Iowa's wind projects led to $61 million in state and local tax payments, which can often be reinvested into other community needs.

County looking to find a use for surplus radios

With Project StoryComm, the countywide infrastructural public safety telecommunications system upgrade going live this year, the county is looking to find a use for a surplus radio purchase for the project.

According to county documents, Story County Emergency Management Agency maintains 15 radios for deployment to various jurisdictions in emergency situations.

The supervisors identified a limited quantity of RACOM portable and mobile radios and stated the county does not have an immediate use for the radios and would like to find an alternative use for the surplus of radios.

"Recognizing not all jurisdictions were financially able to purchase an optimal level of radios, the Board would like to offer the excess radios to jurisdictions with agencies that demonstrate the most need, with first responders being given preference," an excerpt from county documents reads.

Those interested in applying for a radio, can submit an application available on the county's website and return it to the board by July 15.


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