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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+.

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