Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Wind blows a lot... time to harvest the power

Every day we see white trucks drive by our farm. We see construction equipment moving from site to site. we see the signs of a large construction project. The project is the Highland wind farm, a 200 Turbine 500 megawatt project owned by MidAmerican Energy. You can find more information about MidAmerican and wind energy at their website.   I had an opportunity recently to go for a ride with Site Lead Shannon Bell and MidAmerican Energy Supervisor of Wind Energy Adam Jablonski. I asked these gentlemen questions for almost an hour, Some of my questions are rather silly, culled from what I've heard around town and at council meetings, and of course, for those who know me, know I will keep asking questions when given the opportunity! But each was answered. It was an enjoyable interview, give it a listen, I think you will learn a lot about the future of wind energy in O'Brien County.


Check this out on Chirbit
This is the article I culled from the interview for the Paullina Times.

The signs of a major construction project are everywhere, signs like this, and signs warning of children at play. Increased traffic as trucks and equipment move from site to site. 

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A caution sign erected by contractors for MidAmerican Energy
The O’Brien County turbines, are part of  MidAmerican Energy’s Wind VIII project.  The total project, which includes several counties will provide more than $3 million dollars in landowner payments and is expected to create        more than $360 million dollars in property tax revenues. Supervisor of Wind Operations Adam Jablonski says the project wouldn’t happen without the support of the landowners. “They let us use their land for a certain amount of things and they get financial compensation for that. I think that's number one, we are part of the community, but we are only here because the landowners let us be here.”   
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The future site of a wind turbine in the distance.

The construction process for a wind farm is hard to miss: increased traffic, construction equipment moving from one site to another, it’s not an easy process. The wind farm under construction in O’Brien County will produce 502 megawatts of power for MidAmerican Energy customers. The project is widespread through central O’Brien County. Jablonski says there are 300 unique landowners involved in the project. “ This will be one of the top ten in the United States built in one phase.  So, a very large project. The reason it's being spread out over two years is the massive volume. we did construct a 193 turbine project in southwest Iowa and we learned some lessons from there. There was just too much going on at once, it created safety issues.”
How does a project of this scope be a good actor, a good neighbor?   Logistics. Jablonski says meeting that challenge with all the different locations of the project is very important and difficult. “Getting all the components, the rebar, and the concrete from place to place. To do that you have to drive a lot of times by households.  And so the dust control is a big one, making sure we keep that up and always respecting the local traffic or the farm traffic. I know a lot of the crews will either slow down or completely pull over when local traffic is on the same road.”
While chemical dust control is applied in front of acreages, Mortenson Construction also applies water to control the dust elsewhere on roads that are being heavily travelled at different stages of the project.
There are signs that safety is also a top priority, overhead wire signs whenever construction traffic will have to cross under a wire, either while going down the road or when turning onto an access road.  They have also installed “watch for children” signs on either side of acreages that have young children.  Site Lead Shannon Bell says that crews will be mowing around those signs and maintaining them through the summer so that they will remain highly visible.
Construction is scheduled to be finished by the end of next year. The last several weeks have been a challenge because of rain delays. Bell says it takes 24 hours to drain each foundation and wash the rebar.  Bell says the wet conditions have slowed the work. He says the focus is on working safely, so everyone slows down and helps each other out more. “We take it slow and safe, that’s our policy.” He gave some examples, such as tasks that are a one person job in ideal conditions become a two man job when the footing is muddy and slick.  The rains have slowed construction this summer, and the project will again slow in the winter when it gets too cold.
To meet the construction goal of the end of 2015, the work is done methodically with crews focusing on specific segments of construction. For example there is one crew that builds the access roads, another that digs the foundations, and yet others who install rebar, and concrete.
Jablonski says the workers definitely respect their neighbors. “But, keep your eyes open. There's going to be a lot more traffic going up and down the roads than what everyone is used to. As much as we try to be safe, we ask the land owners and residents of the area to keep that watchful eye out there. Midamerican has the job trailers out there and we have a 1800 wind hotline, if you see a safety issue or have any questions feel free to call or stop in and we’ll address your issues or questions.” 



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring is in the air....

The calendar says it's spring.... the smidge of green I can see in the grass says it MIGHT be spring, and the pollen count from the trees says spring is definitely in the air. I just wish there weren't more snow in the forecast! 
And a new laptop means the blog is back in business. I'm very excited to get some farmers back around the table before they get too busy with planting. Also hope to get more South O'Brien FFA members to the table, those kids have been having a great year! But for now, as promised long before the old laptop gave up the ghost... I'm going fangirl. I want to tell you about my new favorite musician. He's a fella by the name of Corb Lund. I think he's wonderful. If you're tired of the fluffy country music that we hear on the radio here in the U.S., if you loved Chris LeDoux and his songs about horses and life and cows....well, Corb is just as awesome.
 Check out the video for September. When I fell in love with this guy.. I can quote the interview. He said when he sits down to write a love song it usually ends up being about a horse. Who wouldn't love a guy like that? Seriously. But it's more than that. He writes about more than drinking, beer, girls in painted on jeans, and getting the truck muddy... okay he does have a song about getting the truck stuck.... actually all the trucks getting stuck .So the bottom line, if you want to listen to music about more than partying and cheating.... Check out our neighbor from the north... I think you'll be as impressed as I was after hearing Bible on the Dash for the first time. In fact, when you check out Corb, Check out Texan Hayes Carll... There's a whole world of great music that doesn't make the airwaves in the U.S. But the state of the radio industry is something that I don't want to discuss. So, check him out and let me know what you think of this artist and storyteller from Alberta.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Economic Development in NW Iowa. We have JOBS!!!! We Need People.



Northwest Iowa Development held its annual partners meeting last week in Sheldon. The economic development group represents six northwest Iowa counties.  The organization has been hard at work promoting growth in Northwest Iowa.  Vice Chair of the organization Steve Simons highlighted the development accomplishments:  there were 875 new jobs created, $105,385,000in new capital investment,  49 projects identified, 5 projects required IEDA financial assistance- $2.5M in tax credit and high quality jobs direct assistance.  Simons also said that approval of an application for Foreign Trade Zone Status should be coming before the end of the year. Simons said on average, each project creates 18 jobs.

Speakers at the event were State Economic Development Director Deb Durham and Governor Terry Branstad.

Check this out on Chirbit

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Farmers' Table: Farm Rescue

Neighbors helping neighbors has been a rural tradition since farmers started farming. I can remember growing up how Dad would leave his field to help a neighbor in need of assistance. How it was almost a matter of pride to be able to lend a hand. It was also welcome, whether for planting, harvest or hay... many hands can make light work for a family that is struggling with  a death, or a health crisis.
Now days, neighbors who are able to help with field work are fewer and farther between, as farms have increased in size and farmer numbers have decreased.
What this means is that the helping neighbor has to come from a little farther away, from organizations like Farm Rescue. It's the same help my Dad gave the neighbors, and his dad and grandfather before him.

At the Clay County Fair I had a chance to learn more about Farm Rescue and  how this great organization got started when I visited with Danielle Abbas.
Check this out on Chirbit  This organization has helped over 230 farm families in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and eastern Montana since 2006.
Danielle Abbas working the booth at the Clay County Fair telling the Farm Rescue story.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Granville Fire and EMS Fundraiser coming to a close

In small rural communities it is a challenge to fund and maintain emergency services such as the fire department and the ambulance. The challenge is especially difficult when the departments need new infrastructure or apparatus, neither of which comes with a small price tag. These departments work hard to keep their facilities and equipment up to current standards, without overly taxing the community they serve.

Granville Fire and EMS has found such a way to fund construction of a new fire and ambulance station. They have been selling raffle tickets for several months. The raffle they put together appeals to  just about everyone.
There are a few tickets left, but they expect to have them all sold by the drawing next week.  Fire Chief Gregg Penning and project chairman Steve Christensen joined me at the Farmers' Table to talk about the project, volunteering in a rural community, and how the crops look.  Click here to listen!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

County fairs.. memories and big things to come

I grew up going to the county fair, first watching my brothers show hogs, then when I was old enough for 4-H showing my pony and horses. Great memories and great experiences that I recall to this day. I had a chance to visit recently with O'Brien County Fair Board President Darwin Gaudian.
Darwin has been president of the fair board for 10 years, and has been involved with the fair, either as an exhibitor in 4-H and FFA or as an adult, well, darn near his whole life!
There was one thing in our conversation that surprised me... there is not a lack of volunteers when it comes to the county fair. Other community efforts in our rural area struggle to find enough help, but not the fair... he gave me some insight into why that is.   Listen and enjoy, this edition of The Farmers' Table.

Check this out on Chirbit


Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Farmers' Table

February got away from me, and I didn't get the interview done, so I hope to have two for you in March. Today I sat down with Austin Rohrs and Denny Weber, both juniors at South O'Brien High School, also with us was their FFA adviser Mr. Eric Kumm. These are wonderful young men! Every time I have interviewed members of the FFA I have wished to go back in time to high school and join. This time was no different.

We talked about what they've been up to in FFA and how they think it will benefit them down the road in what ever careers they choose.  
Check this out on ChirbitListen and enjoy!



I will add that my equipment is still primative, I have a lovely little mixer and additional mics picked out on Amazon, but haven't bit the bullet yet.