Massive Iowa Wind Power Expansion Under Way

That announcement by MidAmerican Energy last spring that it intended to add 1,050 more megawatts of installed wind power capacity in Iowa – the state with more wind power per capita than any other, already – wasn’t mere talk. As part of a big information dump on the effort, the company said this week that all five of the projects are now under construction.

MidAmerican said that when all the work is done, “the new wind projects, which will consist of 448 wind turbines, will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of approximately 317,000 average Iowa households.”

siemens iowa midamerican wind power

President Obama at the Siemens wind turbine factory in Fort Madison, Iowa, in April 2010. All the blades for MidAmerican’s new wind farms in Iowa will come from that factory. (image via Siemens)

The projects will be keeping plenty of construction workers busy in the Midwest – workers further back in the supply chain, too. That’s because MidAmerican has tapped Siemens as the turbine supplier for all project sites.

“All of the blades for the expansion will be manufactured at Siemens’ Fort Madison, Iowa, facility, while the nacelles will be manufactured at Siemens’ Hutchinson, Kan., facility,” MidAmerican said. “Siemens will provide turbines utilizing technology from its 2.3-megawatt, G2 platform for all five projects. The contract also includes a service, maintenance and warranty agreement.”

MidAmerican had some incentive to move fast on getting the work started on this big new blast of wind power: The production tax credit law in now in effect makes facilities under construction before Jan. 1, 2014, eligible for the 10-year, 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour subsidy.

A key test the IRS is using: that developers have incurred 5 percent of costs by Jan. 1. Having done that, developers would then have to make a “continuous effort” to complete the facility. On that latter point, the IRS has said, if the facility is in service before the end of 2015, it will definitely meet the “continuous effort” requirement. And, indeed, MidAmerican says these new projects will be completed by year-end 2015.

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.

  • Jerry Graf

    317,000 households is a really ambiguous way to refer to energy generation, but I am going to guess it means about 3329 GWh, which sounds like a lot until you recognize that this is supposedly a 1.030 GW facility, operating with a capacity factor slightly less than 37%; and usually these projections are overly optimistic.

    The good thing about all this electricity is that the owners of the wind farm will be collecting nearly $80 million a year for 10 years from the taxpayers via the PTC (that’s a total of 800 M$); and who knows what other incentives.

    How much do the wind turbines cost?
    I would guess over $2 billion (that would be 2.0 G$)
    Who is paying for them?
    How much will they cost to operate and maintain every year?
    When will they wear out, and what happens when they do?
    How much useful electricity will they really produce in unambiguous GWh/year?
    What will 317,000 households do when the wind is not blowing sufficiently?

    If they really work, and this is really a good deal, shouldn’t we be talking about these rather huge numbers before committing to spend all this money??