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The Iowa Wind Energy Association estimates that Iowa’s total annual capacity is 570,000 MW — enough to power the state 25 times over.

The majority of wind farm development in Iowa has been driven by large corporations such as MidAmerican and Florida-based NextEra, which have the expertise and resources to develop large-scale wind farms.

These energy producers have been responsible for erecting hundreds of turbines at dozens of Iowa wind farms and will likely continue to be the strongest drivers in the industry’s growth here.

Compared with these major players, small-scale, locally owned projects are minor contributors to overall wind energy generation in the state.

Local projects, however, offer benefits that can’t be measured in wattage alone. To get to know the rewards of local wind, you have to get to know the locals.

Tom Wind (top)

Going Greene

Keeping watch over the town of Jefferson, seven 265-foot-tall turbines stand like sentinels on a bluff just north on Highway 4.

The mile-long stretch of turbines at Hardin Hilltop Wind Farm began as the vision of local farmer Bill Sutton, who in 2003 enlisted the guidance of Tom Wind and the partnership of five other owners of adjacent land.

Through Sutton’s dogged determination and Wind’s industry expertise, the partnership sourced funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Iowa Energy Center, and a California-based equity partner, who agreed to shoulder most of the construction costs in return for majority ownership for a set period of time.

(At the end of that time — around 10 years — the ownership will largely flip to the seven owners permanently.)

(Read more Power Players)

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