A common sight around Perry over the last nine months have been the trenchers and line crews of Michels Corp., the Brownsville, Wis.-based utility design and construction contractor hired to rewire Perry for the new Alliant Energy substation just south of Tyson Fresh Meats at Iowa Highway 141 and I Court.
The extensive ongoing rewiring project includes the placement of 889 new power poles and 16 miles of new wire, according to Alliant Energy Key Account Manager Annette Renaud, who first briefed the Perry City Council on the $15 million project last April.
Last summer saw as many as five line crews working around town and two at the new substation, confirming what Renaud told the council when she said the project would aim to be “as minimally impactful as possible” but admitted things were “going to be a mess for a while.”
“The new substation will move energy farther faster,” she told the council in April. “It’s a more reliable and robust system that’s meant to serve new industries in Perry.”
It looks like the first new industry in Perry to connect to the substation might be Marshall Wind Energy, which was given the go ahead in June by the Perry Zoning Board of Adjustment to build as many as five utility-scale wind turbines on land recently annexed into Perry and lying to the west of the Perry Industrial Park.
A wholly owned subsidiary of De Soto-based RPM Access, Marshall Wind Energy was formed by two other wind turbine developers, Goodwind Energy, a Norwalk subsidiary of Chinese turbine manufacturer HZ Windpower, and Optimum Renewables, a Des Moines firm specializing in prospecting and financing wind-energy projects.
Kurtis Sherer of Norwalk, chairman of Goodwind Energy and a partner in Marshall Wind Energy, brought the applications for conditional-use permits before the Perry Zoning Board of Adjustment in February after objections raised before the Dallas County Planning and Zoning Commission made approval look unlikely there.
Marshall Wind found a much more willing partner in the city of Perry. The county land on which Marshall Wind wanted to erect its towers was annexed into the corporate limits of Perry at the end of April, and Perry Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair John Taylor Jr. steered the permits to approval in spite of split votes on the board.
The three 447-foot wind turbines will stand east of K Avenue, with one north of 150th Street and two south. The land for the turbines is rented by Marshall Wind for $600 a month from Mavis Struyk of Perry and William and Lynn Knoll of Dallas Center.
Landowners along K Avenue who opposed the turbines formed a group called Friends of Perry. They lawyered up, challenged the zoning board’s approval of the permits and sought a restraining order to stop construction of the turbines. District Court Judge Paul R. Huscher denied the request for a restraining order Oct. 7.
The case is now pending before District Court Judge Martha L. Mertz. Deanna Beougher of Perry, a member of Friends of Perry, said she is “still hopeful we can stop these things. The zoning board didn’t even apply the terms of its own ordinance when it came to shadow flicker.. The rights of landowners used to mean something in Iowa, but now they just try to run right over you.”
The not-in-my-backyarders do not always lose these battles. Just as Marshall Wind withdrew its permit application from consideration by the Dallas County Planning and Zoning Commission, Optimum Renewables withdrew several applications this fall after encountering strong opposition from property owners at several locations in Black Hawk, Buchanan and Fayette counties.
When not rewiring Perry for Alliant Energy, Michels Corp. is also erecting the wind turbines for Marshall Energy and burying the transmission lines that will connect the turbines to the Alliant new substation. At the rate they are working this week, Michels will have the turbines standing before Judge Mertz renders an opinion.