Of the many wind energy projects in the United States, only three are verified as sustainable by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. Recently, two of them — developed by power generation and distribution provider Alliant Energy with support from Black & Veatch as owner’s engineer – were the first wind projects ever to achieve the Envision Platinum rating, the highest rating from the Institute.

The Upland Prairie and English Farms wind energy projects were recently evaluated by the Institute using a framework called Envision to measure the projects across economic, social and environmental indicators. Envision is used by owners to promote informed choices about sustainability and resilience in each phase of an infrastructure project.

The Upland Prairie and English Farms projects have a total of 190 turbines with a combined capacity of 470 megawatts, enough to meet the yearly power needs of approximately 168,000 average Iowa homes. In its evaluation, the Institute said the projects went “above and beyond” in terms of their community, quality of life, planning, management, materials, energy, emissions and water indicators.

Notable was the selection of high-performance and low-noise turbines that served to reduce the number of turbines required per project and minimize disturbances to nearby communities and the surrounding environment. The benefits extend to farmers who earn income by leasing land to the projects and to the local counties and schools via increased property taxes due to the improved land.

These and other elements, including road improvements and locally appropriate landscaping, helped the projects earn Envision Platinum awards. Black & Veatch led the Envision application strategy and coordinated the efforts of the various project participants. Upland Prairie and English Farms are also the only wind energy projects to date that have achieved Platinum status.

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