Clean Power latest Warren Buffett wind power buy from Siemens

Published on December 19th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Warren Buffett Dives Into Wind Power, Comes Up With Siemens Turbines

December 19th, 2013 by  

Why is everybody making such a fuss about the latest Warren Buffett wind power purchase? Okay, so the legendary investor’s MidAmerican Energy Company has just ordered a huge mess of wind turbines from Siemens, but it was all the way back in May that MidAmerican announced a new $1.9 billion investment in Iowa wind farms, adding up to 656 new turbines to the 1,267 it already has churning out renewable energy in that state.

What’s really big news, at least to us, is comparing Iowa’s  booming wind industry (including 100% wind for a new Facebook data center) to the situation in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers are still throwing one monkey wrench after another into that state’s struggling wind industry.

However, we digress. The new order is still big news for Siemens, which thanks to Buffett gets to win the week in wind power news with bragging rights to receiving the world’s largest ever single order for onshore wind turbines: 448 of its SWT-2.3-108 models with a combined capacity of 1,050 megawatts.

latest Warren Buffett wind power buy from Siemens

Wind turbines (cropped) courtesy of Siemens.

Siemens Goes To Iowa

Actually, Siemens has been in Iowa for a while now. It has already installed 1.2 gigawatts of capacity for MidAmerican in various locations and the rotor blades for this order will be made at its facility in Madison, Iowa.

Kansas also wins out. The nacelles (the part behind the blades that encloses the gearbox and other components) and hubs (the little knob in front of the blades) will be assembled at the Siemens plant in Hutchinson, Kansas.

For an idea of how much economic activity will be generated directly by the new order, take a look back at MidAmerican’s announcement of its $1.9 billion wind power investment last May.

MidAmerican has estimated that the new wind farms will account for 460 construction jobs, 48 permanent jobs, and more than $360 million in new property tax revenue over the next 30 years.

Ratepayers stand to win out, as MidAmerican estimates that rates will go down by $10 million annually once the farms are completed in 2017, with some savings kicking in earlier.

The new wind farms will help replace MidAmerican coal plants that are being shuttered in consequence of a settlement with the Sierra Club over Clean Air Act violations.

So, What About Wisconsin Wind Power?

Too bad the wind industry in Wisconsin is missing out on all this, but it’s not for lack of trying. The key difference is that Iowa’s Republican governor, Terry Brandstad, went out on a limb to support alternative energy in his state, including renewal of the federal production tax credit for wind power.

In contrast, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin pulled the rug out from under the wind industry a couple of years back, by stalling out a years-long effort by numerous stakeholders to streamline the industry.

So how bad are things in Wisconsin? According to our friends over at MidWestern Energy News, Wisconsin added only 18 megawatts of wind power in 2012 while nearby states with less favorable wind potential zipped ahead, namely Michigan with 138 mw and Ohio with 308 mw.

Not to twist the knife, but aside from its superior wind potential Wisconsin also lies within the epically wind-friendly regional grid operator MISO, so really, what’s their excuse?

It’s particularly weird because the gigantic household products company SC Johnson (you know, Glad, Off!, Ziploc — that SC Johnson) has been making such a big deal about using wind power at its major facility in Waxdale, Wisconsin, so you’d think the party of the private sector would be all over the opportunity to promote economic development in the state.

If you’re looking for answers you might want to go ask ALEC, since a former employee of the notoriously conservative lobbying organization was appointed to the state’s Public Services Commission back in 2010.

Oh, well.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Gavin

    Well, There is not much wind in Wisconsin so there is no need for wind turbines

    • Bob_Wallace

      Not a lot at 80 meters but if you go up higher there’s lots of potential.

  • Laura Massey

    must invest in siemens

  • rkean

    Are you looking at the effects of industrial wind on human health and habitat destruction? This is a major issue in Vermont where ridgelines are destroyed by building roads and pouring the concrete required to put up industrial wind turbines. Families living in proximity to the industrial wind turbines have been sickened by the constant beat of the arms of the turbines. The marketing of wind as green and the baseline greed of investors and developers has drowned out a critical look at the negatives of industrial wind development.

    • Kyle Field

      There are indeed negatives to all methods of power generation that we currently use for utility scale generation. To me, it’s really about trade-offs – would you rather have a coal plant kicking out greenhouse gasses, a nuclear facility which presents a risk to the environment and generates waste, a natural gas turbine or a wind turbine? I’m not saying there aren’t down sides…just consider the alternatives. Having said that, from what you’re sharing, it does sound like the installations have been “greenwashed” and have likely not been sited and installed in the most environmentally and community friendly locations. That’s not really so much of a flaw in the technology, just the implementation of it that’s the problem in your case.

    • Michael Berndtson

      The nice thing about wind is that if you don’t want it, you can block it before its installed. There’s many who can support your cause in positions of influence. If it get’s installed and you don’t like it, you can start a grassroots effort to force the operator to take it all down. What’s left can be sold and built somewhere else. The infrastructure left behind can be razed, and the land restored with minimal scarring. Oh, I almost forgot. There isn’t potentially undrinkable groundwater left behind. And those living downwind and downstream of operations and waste handling, may not have been impacted with whatever stuff didn’t make it to market.

    • Matt

      Yes it would have been so much better if only they could have had those ridge lines removed by mountain top mining. Plus then Vermont would have gotten some more flat land.

      • rkean

        So you think it’s a good idea to sacrifice the ridgelines and habitat to corporate industrial wind quarterly profit?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I think it a most excellent idea to use renewables to get us away from using fossil fuels.

          I recognize that there are not perfect solutions, that every generation technology comes with some downside.

          I accept that in order to eliminate our use of fossil fuels we will have to cause some damage somewhere but that the relative gain for the planet is immense.

        • Matt

          No rkean I was being sarcastic. You campaign against Wind, so I’m guessing you are fine with fracking for gas, mountain top mining for coal. Or have you stop using electric? We know coal is toxic with many heath issue.

    • Bob_Wallace

      By golly, we are looking at the effects of wind farms on health and all sorts of stuff.

      Here’s what we’ve found.

      There are no health issues. Other than a few people who drive themselves crazy with self-created issues.

      • rkean

        By golly I guess you mean health and habitat when you say you’re looking into “all sorts of stuff”. Remember when miners used to “drive themselves crazy” coughing and the mine owners said it wasn’t related to coal dust?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I recall no scientific studies which claimed crazy” coughing wasn’t related to coal dust.

          Mine owners claiming no relationship between respiratory disease and coal dust is just the mirror image of anti-wind people claiming a heath effect when science finds none.

    • TinaCasey

      You need to provide sources for your assertions about the impact of wind turbines on nearby families, but in a very general way you have a good point: new energy infrastructure, whether for renewable sources or natural gas, coal and oil, needs to be sited with local considerations in mind, including impacts on existing economic activity as well as public health. Solutions that are a good fit for one region may not be ideal for another.

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