Already one of the nation’s wind power leaders, Iowa has taken another step to harness its vast renewable resource.

Earlier this year, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) certified three counties—Floyd, Johnson and Linn—as “Small Wind Innovation Zones.” The certification marks the counties’ compliance with legislation passed three years ago to encourage the development of more small wind power in the state.

The legislation set the stage for local governments to streamline and expedite their approval process for small wind turbines, defined as those with the generating capacity of 100 kilowatts (kW) or less.

A consortium of groups, including the Iowa League of Cities, the Iowa Association of Counties, the Iowa Environmental Council, the Iowa Wind Energy Association, and representatives of the state’s utilities was tasked in the legislation with developing a model ordinance for local governments to adopt and then receive the innovation zone designation.

In that law, the IUB was also tasked with developing a model interconnection agreement, which small system owners must sign with their local utility, ensuring a safe and reliable interconnection. Through interconnection agreements, small turbine owners can benefit from net metering, which offers them a credit on their monthly bill if they generate more power than they consume. Additionally, the 2009 legislation allows owners to qualify for the state’s wind-energy production tax credit.

According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, the state ranks second nationally for installed wind capacity at 4,495 megawatts. However, that mostly reflects larger wind turbines. Many rural landowners benefit from leasing their land to the owners of these larger turbines, but they still pay retail rates for their power. The small wind innovation zones are seen as the incentive they need to take the next step by erecting their own turbines and generating their own power.