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.
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.
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.
Image: Current Iowa wind development via MidAmerican Energy.