Clean Power Midwest wind farm

Published on August 14th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci


Iowa Will Add 1.05GW New Wind Energy Capacity By 2015

August 14th, 2013 by  

Iowa will add 1.05 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity by 2015, thanks to the Iowa Utilities Board’s approval of a $1.9 billion proposal from MidAmerican Energy.

Regulatory approval of the Wind VII project paves the way for construction to start as soon as September 2013. The wind farm sites have already secured development and grid interconnection rights, and will bring hundreds of green jobs and millions in revenue to landowners and the government.

MidAmerican’s proposal, first announced in May 2013, will build 448 new wind turbines across Madison, Marshall, Grundy, O’Brien, and Webster counties without any increase in customer rates or any state funding.

Largest Economic Development Investment In Iowa’s History

In fact, the economic benefits of Wind VII may actually outweigh the environmental aspects. The project will create 460 construction jobs and an estimated payroll of $30 million over two years. Once built, the turbines will support 48 permanent green jobs and an estimated $2.4 million payroll.

With time, Wind VII will cut electricity bills for MidAmerican ratepayers. The utility is Iowa’s largest, with roughly 734,000 electric service customers, and the expansion will be built at no net cost to customers. After the first 350 megawatts of new generation capacity are installed, a $3.3 million rate reduction will take effect. By 2017, the rate reduction will increase to $10 million per year.

Midwest wind farm

Midwest wind farm image via Shutterstock

MidAmerican’s turbines will also boost local economies, with $360 million in property tax revenue for local governments over 30 years and up to $3.2 million in annual payments to farmers for use of their land. But in addition to strengthening local economies, Wind VII could help expand Iowa’s green economy.

Few states have benefitted more from the expansion of wind energy more than Iowa. Wind employs 7,000 workers statewide, generates more than $16 million in annual lease payments, and has attracted nearly $10 billion dollars in capital funding for wind farms and manufacturing facilities (with up to $10 billion in expected investment), according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association.

“We regularly speak with companies who are looking for green renewable energy and MidAmerican’s efforts are helping us market Iowa in recruiting new jobs,” said Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. “Not only is this the largest economic development investment in Iowa’s history, it’s a great story for us to share with potential businesses.”

The state currently ranks third in the US with 5,133 megawatts of installed capacity and first among all states with wind contributing 25.3% of all in-state electricity generation, according to a recent DOE report – enough to power roughly 1.3 million homes.

Diversified Generation Makes Economic Sense

Once Wind VII is completed, wind energy will generate approximately 39% of MidAmerican’s electric generation capacity – 6% more than coal’s share and more than twice natural gas. This is a rapid switch from the end of 2011, when coal provided 47% of the state’s energy compared to wind’s 26% at, and stands as testament to the economic promise of green energy.

“The best way to meet our customers’ energy needs is to provide reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible through a diversified generation portfolio,” said Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican.  “Working together, we have enhanced Iowa’s economy and helped meet growing customer demand for electricity through renewable energy generation.”

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • buddynoel

    The Audubon Society to hold candlelight vigil.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Here’s the Audubon Society statement on wind power….

      “For years environmentalists have been touting the benefits of generating electricity from pollution-free wind power. As the threats of global warming loom ever larger, alternative energy sources like wind power are essential. (For a more detailed discussion of wind power see “Selling the Wind,” in the
      September-October issue.)

      For Audubon, wind power is a good news, bad news story. The good news
      is that many new wind-power projects are being proposed across the country. For example, not long ago I flew over South Dakota and saw hundreds of wind turbines dotting the landscape. The state of Texas
      recently announced its intention to become the country’s wind-power

      The bad news is that wind turbines sometimes kill a lot of birds.
      Some early wind projects like Altamont in California are notorious for
      killing many raptors, including golden eagles. Modern wind turbines are
      much safer for birds than their predecessors, but if they are located in
      the wrong places, they can still be hazardous and can fragment critical
      habitat. In cases where the birds affected are already in trouble, such
      as sage grouse in windy parts of the plains states, the turbines could
      push them closer to extinction.

      On balance, Audubon strongly supports wind power as a clean
      alternative energy source that reduces the threat of global warming.
      Location, however, is important. Many National Audubon Society Chapters
      and State Programs are actively involved in wind-power siting issues in
      their communities. Each project has a unique set of circumstances and
      should be evaluated on its own merits.

      In Massachusetts, Mass Audubon (which is an independent state Audubon organization) recently completed an extensive review of the proposed Cape Wind project on Nantucket Sound that set a new standard for analyzing the potential effects of wind turbines on birds.

      Every source of energy has some environmental consequences. Most of
      today’s rapidly growing demand for energy is now being met by natural
      gas and expanded coal-burning power plants, which are this country’s
      single greatest source of the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global
      warming. If we don’t find ways to reduce these emissions, far more
      birds–and people–will be threatened by global warming than by wind
      turbines. Our challenge is thus to help design and locate wind-power
      projects that minimize the negative impacts on birds.

      The federal Energy Production Tax Credit is another area where we can
      help. This tax credit is essential to making wind power economically
      feasible. Unfortunately, Congress extended the credit for only two
      years, which encourages wind project developers to cut corners on
      siting, design and environmental reviews so that they can get projects
      approved before the credit expires. Please contact members of Congress
      and ask them to make the Energy Production Tax Credit for wind power

  • Wayne Williamson

    Cool, just one thought occurs to me…starting in September seems strange, but I guess you can build them thru the winter…

  • JamesWimberley

    I guess the mega-project is a neat solution to the expiry of the wind PTC : projects have to be started by the end of this year but don’t have to be completed.

    The annual $15m in rents and local property taxes is a bigger deal than the 48 permanent direct jobs. At $50,000 per job, the income translates to 300 jobs.

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