Visit the LeRoy Independent website
October 02, 2008
Alan Runde, 11, starts up 1st turbine at Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm dedication
|Horizon CEO Antonio Martins da Costa and Alan Runde get ready to pull the switch of the first working turbine in the Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm, dedicated Friday, Sept.26.|
LEROY, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Wow! When Horizon Wind Energy hosted the Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm dedication dinner and ceremony in the middle of Iowa's cornfields Friday afternoon, they put together a celebration which will long be remembered by the many landowners attending the special event. It was a humdinger!
Better yet, Alan Runde, 11-year-old son of Dean and Sandy, landowners for some of the Wind Farm towers, was given the privilege of turning on the first wind tower turbine, from a switch box located next to the huge tent where a catered dinner was served to an anticipated crowd of 500 landowners, officials and area representatives.
Alan also took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, when he and Antonio Martins da Costa, CEO of Horizon Wind Energy, cut the ribbon signifying the opening of the Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm with its 182 turbines. This part of the ceremony took place front and center of a wind tower blade lying alongside the path which landowners walked from the bus, which delivered them to the site, to the huge white tent set up with tables to seat the expected crowd.
The meal, provided by Canadian Honker Catering, was a buffet offering of pasta salad, cole slaw, potato salad, roasted chicken breast, cornbread, and topped with a small slab of barbecued pork ribs. Drinks and desserts were to the side of the serving area, and each of the many, many cloth-covered tables set up in the tent held a fall floral arrangement. An added feature for this feast in the middle of an Iowa cornfield was the fact that all those at the dinner picked up a China plate to hold the food of their choice, along with silver service for eating. A singing group, The Bandanas, sang popular older tunes during the mealtime. It was quite a celebration!
The program brochures pictured the three blades of a tower as the tops of cornstalks, a wonderful picture and symbolizm of just what is happening to the cornfields of Iowa, and Minnesota. Farming of corn and beans keeps right on going as the wind towers are being built in the Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm located in Mitchell and Howard Counties in Iowa, just south of the Minnesota border. The landowners were a happy lot at the dedication Friday. Some could see the towers on their own land, some only had stories to tell, with their towers in the distance.
Doug Jones, who is now located near Bloomington, Illinois, was master of ceremonies and welcomed the crowd of company officials, government representatives and landowners. Jones is a senior project manager for Horizon Wind Energy, but was very instrumental in getting the Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm off and running. He had been with the project for the past seven years, and is now in Illinois doing the same thing for other locations of potential wind farms.
Dean and Sandy Runde, who live just south of the state line and are Pioneer Prairie landowners, were speakers with Dean giving a time line, telling about the Horizon's first meeting of landowners in his garage in June 2001 and leading up to the dedication ceremony at which he was speaking. It was a long seven years, but they never faltered from attaining their goal, with his wife and young son, Alan, moving right along with him. "Let's just do it" became the rally cry as obstacles were overcome, one after the other. Six years of paperwork. And then in 2007 the companty knew it was a project which could be done and in the winter of 2008 it all came together. Construction began this past spring, and the weather did not cooperate. Then the wind towers began to appear on the horizon, one after the other.
Runde says of the Prairie Wind project: "It's a long ways from being done, so watch the crossroads. There's still lots of work to be done and big machinery still moving."
Janet McGovern, supervisor of Howard County, spoke about the county's involvement in the project, noting the weather problems last spring, with the county roads taking a beating from the weight of heavy equipment. She said Horizon was experienced with all issues and were very cooperative with helping with road conditions, handling it all to the county's satisfaction. She thanked Horizon for making "a big difference" in the two counties involved.
Brenda Dryer, who is the EDA director for Mitchell County, told the crowd, "It's not every day that the Economic Development gets a project of this magnitude." Just a year ago, she said, there were no turbines. Now we're in partnership with Horizon.
John Dunlop, Senior Technical Services Engineer with American Wind Energy Association, said the wind power industry has seen a 50 percent growth since the first of the year. There are presently 1600 members and Horizon is one of them. Iowa now places third in production of wind energy. He spoke of the tax credit bill now in Congress, telling that a Senate bill had passed that very morning, and another bill was moving into the House of Representatives. This tax credit bill must get passed, he said.
Mark Kuhn, a District 14 Iowa State Representative, talked about the wind energy's impact on Iowa's economy, an increase of 30 percent. "Never before has there been such a need for electricity." He warned of challenges ahead including the construction of transmission lines for the produced electricity. He stressed the need to "keep our kids here in Iowa" and said there is much talk already of manufacturing smaller turbines for use on farms and in small industry and in towns.
The final speaker was Antonio Martins Da Costa, CEO of Horizon, who came to the celebration from Houston, Texas. Dressed in a blue denim shirt and jeans, he told his audience about the 300 megawatts which will be produced in Pioneer Prairie. He said the company had "a $600 million investment here." Horizon is owned by EDP Renewables Company, a global leader in the renewable energy sector that is currently the fourth largest wind energy producer in the world.
The CEO said that making wind energy is the "future of our children and grandchildren." The company has 800 more megawatts under construction, so "we have plenty of work to do in the next few years." da Costa said it is most important that "our investors know that what we promise, we deliver." He acknowledged the City of LeRoy for helping Horizon get its new headquarters building located there, thanking them as well as all the material and construction companies involved in the Pioneer Prairie project.
After his talk, the CEO and Alan Runde headed out of the tent to the site of the ribbon cutting ceremony where the two cut the symbolic ribbon of the Horizon Wind Energy project in front of the huge wind tower blade, autographed by all those attending the dedication. The two then went to the box, which held the switch to turn on the blades for the first operating turbine, located among the many other wind turbines, which could be seen across the cornfields. A wind turbine was also open to those who wanted to see the inside of the mammouth piece of equipment near the tent site.
Three Rochester City Line buses transported landowners and guests from the headquarters building at LeRoy out to the dedication site every 15 minutes, and then back again after the ceremony.
The stats that go with this story will be printed in another article, but the one which makes the best impression is the fact that the 300 megawatts which will be produced in the Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm is enough to power more than 90,000 average Iowa homes with clean energy. Approximately 300 supportive landowners participate in this wind farm under long-term lease and easement agreements that cover turbines, access roads, transmission corridors and wind access.
It was "a marvelous day in the country" and the wind blew like it had to show off in front of all the Texas visitors. "Does it blow like this all the time?" was the most prevalent question asked as Horizon personnel held on to everything ready to blow in the wind!
© 2013 LeRoy Independent
LeRoy, Minnesota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from STPNS