Jefferson Fuels Its Own Future
Story by Jennifer Blair Tuite, photography by Shuva Rahim
“I guess I’ve just always loved the wind.” Tom Wind (yes, that’s his real name) makes this simple declaration as the turbine above him marks time with outstretched arms. “It’s like an old friend here.”
“Here” is a pocket of Greene County, where the wind sweeps through 300,000 plus acres of corn and soybeans, and its admiring friend is a national expert on wind energy and part of a local group of landowners who established Iowa’s first locally owned wind farm just outside his hometown of Jefferson.
“It’s always been about benefiting the community,” Wind asserts. In the five years since the blades first turned, benefitting the community seems to be exactly what this group of intrepid entrepreneurs has done.
The seven turbines of Hardin Hilltop Wind Farm stand sentinel over the local owners’ farms (top).
Powerful PotentialIowa has long been a pioneer in the wind industry, enacting legislation in the 1980s and 1990s to encourage renewable energy production and entice turbine manufacturing and maintenance operations to locate in the state.
Today Iowa ranks second in the nation for wind production (behind Texas) and first in the nation for share of energy derived from wind (20 percent).
The industry employs around 6,500 people in Iowa, again topping national charts. The potential for growth is vast.
With current turbines, the state has the capacity to generate around 4,500 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year — an amount that can power around a million homes.
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