Big Gust Of New Wind Power Coming Iowa’s Way

Iowa, with plenty already, looks like it will be getting more wind power.

MidAmerican Energy on Wednesday proposed planting up to 656 new turbines in Iowa soil by the end of 2015, adding up to as much as 1,050 megawatts of new generating capacity.

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s annual report, Iowa had the third most installed wind capacity among the 50 states as of the end of 2012 (5,133 megawatts), and in 2012, wind’s share of Iowa’s electricity generation was a U.S.-leading 24.5 percent. (Plus: Facebook recently cited Iowa’s abundance of wind power as a factor in its decision to build a data center on the outskirts of Des Moines.)

iowa wind midamerican

President Obama at Iowa wind farm during 2012 campaign (image via Obama for America)

MidAmerican, controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company, is responsible for a big portion of all this wind power, owning and operating 2,285 MW of capacity in the state.

Iowa’s politicians, many of them Republicans, have split with many in the party’s national leadership to become big fans of wind, a fact that became a bit of a thorn in the side of GOP nominee Mitt Romney during last year’s presidential campaign.

But what’s not to love about wind for an Iowa pol? Wind is popular in Iowa. Consider what MidAmerican said its new $1.9 billion initiative will bring:

The wind expansion will enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years. Landowner payments totaling $3.2 million per year also are expected as a result of the expansion. In addition, the expansion is planned to be built at no net cost to the company’s customers and will help stabilize electric rates over the long term by providing a rate reduction totaling $10 million per year by 2017, commencing with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad was quickly on board with the proposed wind expansion. “As a leader in wind generation, the state of Iowa welcomes the opportunity to expand our renewable energy portfolio,” he said in a statement. “MidAmerican Energy’s proposed project will be the largest economic development investment in the history of the state, bringing needed jobs to Iowa, as well as significant economic benefits.”

MidAmerican said the new wind push was prompted by the extension of the production tax credit, which gives companies a 10-year, 2.3-cents/kilowatt-hour tax credit for power produced from wind farms that are under construction before the end of this year (a fairly loosely defined status that should make all of MidAmerican’s planned new turbines eligible).

MidAmerican estimated that “by January 2016, when all new wind generation is expected to be operating,” the company “may be capable of generating approximately 39 percent of its retail generation output through wind generation during that month.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

    • Kevin_ORourke_AWEA

      Buffet and MidAmerica’s investment sends a strong signal that the
      financial sector recognizes our country’s demand for more clean, reliable,
      and homegrown energy.

      Others in the business community clearly
      agree, as evidenced by the $25 billion in private investment which
      flowed to the wind industry last year alone.

      As a result, wind
      power was the number one source of new generation installed last year,
      confirming its status as a mainstream energy source. In total, the
      industry now employs 80,000 Americans and the wind component supply
      chain spans over 550 facilities across 44 states.