Alliant to invest $1 billion in Iowa wind energy

Source: By Mitchell Schmidt, The Cedar Rapids Gazette • Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2016

CEDAR RAPIDS — Standing with Kirkwood Community College’s 2.5 megawatt wind turbine at his back, Gov. Terry Branstad shared the latest news for Iowa’s growing wind industry — Alliant Energy’s $1 billion investment in wind power.

That investment will add 500 megawatts — equal to 200 of Kirkwood’s turbines — to Iowa’s renewable energy infrastructure.

Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Alliant CEO Patricia Kampling announced the utility’s plans during a Wednesday news conference.

“The new wind project will deliver up to 500 megawatts of low-cost, reliable and renewable energy. The development and operation activities will result in an investment of about $1 billion in our state. That’s a billion with a ‘B’, that’s a big number,” Branstad said.

Doug Kopp, Alliant Energy Senior Vice President President, said the plan — which requires approval from the Iowa Utilities Board to proceed — is to invest the large majority funds into expansion of the utility’s Whispering Willow Wind Farm in Franklin County. Possible wind energy development could take place elsewhere in the state, he added.

“At this point we have something that’s in-hand, it works, we know it’s a good site,” he said. “So there will definitely be a significant portion built at that site.”

Kampling said Alliant’s announcement was timed to reap the benefits of wind energy production tax credits.

“We are making this investment today so we can maximize the full value of available renewable energy tax credits to benefit our customers,” she said.

Alliant’s announcement comes just months after MidAmerican Energy’s April announcement of plans spend $3.6 billion on 1,000 wind turbines in Iowa. Similar to Alliant’s project, MidAmerican’s entire $3.6 billion will be recouped through federal tax incentives over 10 years.

Construction on MidAmerican’s project could begin next year, with the vast majority of the project completed in 2017 and 2018.

Alliant’s Whispering Willow Wind Farm spans 33,000 acres, began commercial operation in late 2009 and boasts 121 turbines with a capacity to generate 200 megawatts, or enough to power about 50,000 homes, according to the utility’s website.

Alliant’s five-year plan involves adding up to 500 megawatts to the wind farm. The project is expected to generate “tens of millions of dollars in property taxes” and result in more than 1,500 jobs at the height of construction, according to a Wednesday news release.

“It’s an honor to be with you today as you embark on yet another historic contribution to Iowa’s renewable energy story … In Iowa, we like to lead and we definitely are leaders in renewable energy,” Reynolds said.

Iowa ranked second last year among all states in net electricity generation from wind, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

More than 31 percent of Iowa’s total electricity generation came from wind, a larger share than any other state, according to the administration.

Reynolds added that more renewable energy creates an economic driver for added growth in Iowa.

“Having a cleaner energy mix is key to attracting new investment in Iowa,” she said.

The wind project is part of Alliant’s plan to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent from 2005 to 2030.

If Alliant’s request for advanced ratemaking principles is approved, the utility would expect to reprioritize its 2016-2019 construction expenditure plan.