The University of Iowa

Linn County Windfarm Suitability Analysis

Linn County, Iowa
Academic Year 
Planning & Public Affairs
Project Partner 

In conjunction with officials from Linn County Iowa, graduate students in the School of Urban & Regional Planning completed a Windfarm Suitability Analysis study for the unincorporated Linn County area. 

Advancements in wind energy technology are allowing utility-scale wind developments to be sited in areas once infeasible. In light of this trend, Linn County has proactively partnered with the University of Iowa Office of Outreach & Engagement and The University of Iowa School of Urban & Regional Planning to prepare a Wind Farm Siting Analysis to aid staff and county officials in the review of potential utility-scale wind developments in rural Linn County. This analysis is a step toward fulfilling the goals and objectives regarding alternative and renewable energy listed in Linn County’s Comprehensive Plan, A Smarter Course: Building on the Past, Embracing the Future of Rural Linn County.

The analysis includes policy and best practices research, a decision-making guide, a survey conducted regarding public attitudes toward wind energy, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) parcel-by-parcel analysis of rural Linn County which synthesizes all relevant siting factors, and a fully automated GIS model that allows Linn County staff to repeat the GIS analysis as relevant inputs change in the future. This GIS model will provide spatial and quantitative support for Linn County staff when reviewing applications for utility-scale wind developments.

The relevant wind development siting factors are classified into three main categories: Regulatory, Suitability, and Compatibility. The first, Regulatory, determines where wind developments can legally be sited. The two other categories mirror two of the Sec.107-73.4 standards for review in Linn County’s Code of Ordinances for reviewing conditional use permit applications. Suitability factors determine the level of a potential site’s suitability for supporting wind energy infrastructure and therefore can be used to predict the general areas of Linn County that wind developers will want to site these developments. Compatibility factors determine the amount to which a potential site would be compatible with surrounding land uses.

The locations with both high compatibility and high suitability ratings are therefore the most ideal siting locations from both the public and private perspectives.