USDA's REAP program awards Luther grant, loan for wind turbine project

Sept. 28, 2009

Tom Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, has announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program will award Luther College Wind Energy Project, LLC, a $500,000 grant and a $1,302,385 loan to fund the installation of a 1.65 MW wind turbine that is expected to generate about one-third of the electrical energy consumed by the college each year.

The REAP funds awarded to the Luther wind turbine project are part of the program’s $62.5 million in loans and grants for 705 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in 45 states and Puerto Rico. Vilsack has called the REAP program an important initiative to help rebuild and revitalize rural America.

“President Obama and I are committed to helping rural businesses become more energy efficient,” said Vilsack. “It's good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for the workers and customers who depend on the goods and services these businesses provide.

“While the REAP grants will continue to provide an important jump start to a clean, renewable energy future, Congress must act to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to create the green jobs our economy needs and get our nation on the path to being truly energy independent,” he said.

REAP grants and loan guarantees can be used for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, feasibility studies and energy audits. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.

Information about the REAP program, which was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill, is at

The Luther College wind turbine project is a major part of the college’s sustainability initiative in 2010. The Winneshiek County Planning and Zoning Commission approved the college’s request for a conditional use permit for the project proposal in September.

Luther plans to install one wind turbine with an electrical nameplate generation capacity of 1.65 MW or smaller on a tract of land northwest of the city limits of Decorah and just north of a rock quarry near the intersection of U.S. Highway 52 and the Madison Road.

The single turbine project will be in view of the Luther campus. The turbine site was selected because it is has a good wind resource to power the turbine. Soil boring tests conducted by the Terracon company of Cedar Falls, Iowa, show the site is suitable for the construction of the proposed turbine.

Delivery of the turbine is tentatively scheduled for December 2009 with installation to be completed by June 2010. A temporary three-acre staging area would be developed on the site to assemble the large crane that will be necessary for the turbine erection.  Wind Utility Consulting, PC in Jamaica, Iowa, has provided the professional engineering and wind resource assessment services for the project.

The proposal calls for delivery of major crane, tower, and turbine components on paved road surfaces in the county. The project will require construction of a quarter-mile long gravel access road on the site. The turbine’s transmission line will be installed underground.

The turbine would stand on approximately one-third of an acre of land in an approximately 50-acre crop field, which the landowner rents to a local farmer. The gravel access road will occupy another half-acre in this field.

Luther President Richard Torgerson said the installation of the turbine will help Luther achieve one of the college’s major sustainability goals: reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. He said the project will also serve to educate students and the community about the potential of renewable energy.

Wind Utility Consulting projects that the turbine will generate approximately 4.9 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in net electricity production over the course of one year. This is equivalent to about one third of Luther’s annual electricity consumption. 

The 4.9 million kWh of renewably produced electricity will enable Luther to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 14.6 percent. Luther recently reduced its emissions by 15.5 percent by conducting and implementing a $1.5 million energy efficiency audit. 

President Torgerson said Luther is considering two transmission options. One option would bring the power to the Luther campus where it would be consumed or sold to Alliant Energy at Luther’s point of service delivery. 

The second option would involve selling the power to Alliant Energy at an interconnection point at the base of Nor-Ski Hill, west of U.S. Highway 52 and south of the Upper Iowa River. Luther is weighing the costs and benefits of the options.

Questions about the project can be directed to Jerry Johnson, Public information Office, Luther College, telephone: (563) 387-1865, email [email protected]


Vestas wind turbine