Clean Power Iowa Wind XI Buffett MidAmerican

Published on April 15th, 2016 | by Tina Casey

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Buffett Stakes $3.6 Billion On Massive Wind XI Project In Iowa

April 15th, 2016 by  

The high-powered US investor Warren Buffett has been all over wind energy development in Iowa, and his MidAmerican Energy company has just one-upped itself with a new plan called Wind XI. If approved, the new $3.6 billion wind development initiative would enable MidAmerican to provide its Iowa customers with a grid mix that includes 85 percent wind energy, up from an already impressive current level of 47 percent.

Iowa Wind XI Buffett MidAmerican

The New Iowa Wind XI Project

Wind XI will still need approval by the Iowa Utilities Board, which the company hopes to get by this September. The location of the turbines is also yet to be determined.

Assuming that all goes according to plan, here’s the lowdown on Wind XI from MidAmerican:

Wind XI will generate an average of approximately $12.5 million per year in property tax payments, $18 million per year in landowner payments, and $48 million per year in state and local expenditures associated with the project.

According to KETV-Omaha, the new project will add about 1,000 new wind turbines to a state already bristling with turbine towers, many thanks to previous Buffett-related wind investments.

The new turbines will generate up to 2,000 megawatts and put Iowa even farther ahead of the other 49 US states when it comes to wind energy generation statewide. Iowa is already the only state in the US to pass the 30 percent threshold, and the new turbines will put it over 40 percent.

To gild the clean power lily, the project will not require state subsidies, and MidAmerican has pledged that its customers’ electricity rates will not increase as a result of the new investment.

Red Governor, Green Energy

For those of you unfamiliar with the political scene in Iowa, the state’s leadership in renewable energy may come as something of a surprise.

The Iowa success story is thanks to strong, longtime support for wind energy development from top Republican policymakers in the state, namely, Governor Terry Branstad and US Senator Chuck Grassley (this guy, unfortunately).

Grassley was instrumental in establishing a key federal tax credit for wind energy production in the 1990s, and Branstad’s support for renewable energy goes all the way back to the 1980s.

As described by the Des Moines Register, the state’s growing wind industry helped Iowa fare better during the Great Recession than its neighboring states. Wind has become a key economic driver for Iowa that keeps electricity rates low and provides small communities with a steady funding stream:

Support for wind energy is one way the governor helps create a better environment for our state’s students. Wind energy has delivered $10 billion in private capital investment to Iowa, while increased property tax revenue from wind farms could exceed $135 million annually by 2030. Many rural communities rely on these revenue streams to build new schools and fund or improve their educational facilities.

Here’s what Branstad had to say about the new Wind XI plan:

We welcome this opportunity to expand Iowa’s renewable energy and thank MidAmerican Energy for making this investment in our great state. Every wind turbine you see in Iowa means income for farmers, revenue for counties and jobs for Iowa families.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds also noted that the wind industry is attracting high-pay, high-quality jobs to the state, and that Iowa has been leveraging its clean energy profile to attract overseas investment in the state.

Iowa’s thriving wind industry presents a stark contrast to wind-rich Wisconsin, where wind development has been floundering in the doldrums due to a legislative climate attributed to the influence of the Koch brothers.

That could be about to change, so stay tuned.

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Image: Current Iowa wind development via MidAmerican Energy.





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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+.



  • Matt

    Interesting that they are using 2MW turbines. I thought that the “normal” size was now 3MW. Wonder how high the towers will be.

    • Calamity_Jean

      Where did you see that the new turbines would be 2MW? This article doesn’t say.

  • Steve

    It looks like a wind grab. This is good. This will accelerate more investment because of Warren Buffett investment. Very interesting times. He has got to come up with a solution for Nevada. It still hurts that he killed solar there.

    It makes all the sense in the world:
    NY Times
    March 25th, 2016
    “Wind Power Transmission Project in Plains Earns U.S. Approval”

    Look at those transmission lines going from Iowa to Illinois. Is the plan eventually going to take them through Indiana and Ohio?

    US Dept Of Energy OKs Clean Line Energy’s $2.5 Billion Plains & Eastern Line Transmission Project
    Cleantechnica
    April 5th, 2016 by James Ayre

    • Calamity_Jean

      Buffet didn’t kill all solar in Nevada, just net-metered rooftop solar. He’s fine with utility-scale solar farms.

      • Steve

        And the subsidies he is receiving.

        • Calamity_Jean

          That too.

  • GregX

    I wish Branstad and Grassley were running instead of Trump and Cruz.

  • Phil

    The energy revolution will create major changes to global employment.

    Many industries will relocate to where the land , sustainable energy and material resources are reliably available. And not just cheap labour.
    The Human resource will follow it.

    Look at what is happening in Nevada with EV’s
    The new Energy Valley.

  • sjc_1

    The Texas panhandle north through the Dakotas is wind country. Nebraska lags behind, but can catch up with investments.

    • Roland

      Nebraska has 400 MW under construction this year. After some changes to the state laws and regs, its not doing too bad. There’s not the anti-wind sentiment like there is in Wisconsin.

      I think eventually, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa will all be transmitting big chunks of power to Missouri, which will be closing down its coal plants.

      • Calamity_Jean

        Missouri is nearly as windy as Illinois and Indiana, plus is far enough south to have good solar potential. I can’t imagine that they would need to import a lot of power if they shut down coal. They would be crossed by powerlines carrying Nebraska and Kansas electricity to the east coast and southeastern states.

  • Armchair Hydrogeologist

    I wonder when the Kochs will try to get in on this business. The transmission line needs are enormous and requires a similar skill set and organization as their pipeline business. The other oil tycoons are in, when will they tip their hat in the race to get the east coast powered up with this cheap electricity?

    • TinaCasey

      Good point. Warren Buffett is one among a growing number of legacy energy investors who don’t have ego issues when it comes to transitioning to new sustainable solutions — after all, it’s all about the Benjamins. With the Koch family, ego seems to be much more in play.

    • jeffhre

      I’ve never thought much of people who just write…Duh! But, yeah, that.

  • Freddy D

    Would love to see some coordinated effort to build morE HVDC transmission from the wind belt to the east coast now!

    2GW is a nice step toward the 1,500 GW of wind that will be needed to move the US toward full renewables.

    • eveee

      You mean like this 4GW one, the largest in US history.

      “The other big development is the Energy Department’s announcement that it will get behind the proposed 700-mile megawatt Clean Line Plains & Eastern transmission line, designed primarily to transport electricity from Oklahoma and Texas wind farms through Arkansas to Tennessee and points east.

      At 4,000 megawatts, Plains & Eastern counts as the biggest renewable energy project so far in US history.”

      Lets hope that continues.
      http://cleantechnica.com/2016/04/04/us-wind-energy-takes-off-with-transmission-offshore-farm/

      • Calamity_Jean

        Yeah, more like that, please.

    • Harry Johnson

      There are two other HVDC lines being planned but NIMBYism is the usual problem. The 3.5GW Rock Island project would nearly touch South Dakota which has enormous potential. But the Iowa legislature is planning to kill the project right now. Perhaps the DoE can step in again and force it through.
      We will never begin to take full advantage of clean wind energy until the transmission lines can be built.

      • Lou Gage

        Interesting that you raise NIMBY by the Iowa Assembly in an article talking about how much wind has been built in Iowa. Are their other factors on the “Rock Island” that are not mentioned? Or maybe Iowa wants to keep a potential competitor out of their market place. After Iowa seems to be doing ok from wind energy. Lou Gage

      • eveee

        It needs to be kicked upstairs to the federal level and streamlined. The feds need to tell the states to back off and quit the nonsense. Same with squabbles between MISO and SPP.
        Could the Iowa legislature be trying to protect Iowa wind at the expense of Nebraska? Idk.

  • Kyle Field

    So great to see 😀 With Buffett diving into wind head first, there’s no stopping it.

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