Google’s investment in Iowa wind farm renews call for support of tax credit

Source: Written by Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012

Google is investing $75 million in a central Iowa wind farm that produces enough electricity to power 15,000 homes. It’s the California tech giant’s first investment in an Iowa wind generation project.

Tuesday’s announcement sparked renewed support from political leaders to fight for extending tax credits for the wind industry, ranging from Sue Dvorsky, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, who called for bipartisan support, to U.S Rep. Tom Latham, R-Ia., who is “encouraged that Google recognizes the pivotal role that wind plays in securing securing energy independence.”

The wind production tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Iowa wind equipment manufacturers have cut about 500 jobs this fall as concerns about an industry slowdown grow.

Google is investing in RPM Access’ Rippey Wind Farm, which became operational this fall. The farm has 20 wind turbines generating 50 megawatts of electricity.

The West Des Moines company has a long-term contract to provide power to Central Iowa Power Cooperative, a Cedar Rapids wholesale provider of electricity.

The Iowa investment, announced Thursday morning, pushes Google’s investment in renewable energy projects to nearly $1 billion. Kate Hurowitz, a Google spokeswoman, said the decision fits with the Internet search company’s efforts to “green the grid in regions where we operate.”

Google has a $600 million data center in Council Bluffs that opened in 2009. It’s building a second $300 million data farm south of the existing operation, where the company has about 1,000 acres.

Separately from Thursday’s announcement, Google said it will join Gov. Terry Branstad today to discuss increasing its investment in its Iowa operations.

Hurowitz declined to comment on today’s announcement. Google “has invested heavily in wind energy because it’s good for the environment and because it will provide a strong financial return,” Hurowitz said. “We believe the world needs a wide range of renewable energy technologies to build a clean energy future.”

Google has invested in new and existing wind farms, large-scale solar panel projects, and an offshore transmission line, among other projects.

Hurowitz said the Mountain View, Calif., company works to reduce its energy use at its data centers, which typically are large power consumers. She said Google’s data farms consume half the energy of an average data center. The company also has reduced its reliance on fossil fuel, purchasing power from wind operations in Iowa and Oklahoma, where it also has data centers.

Google purchases wind from a NextEra Energy wind farm in Story County.

Hurowitz said about 33 percent of the power Google uses comes from renewable energy.

Kirk Kraft, an RPM Access spokesman, said the Google investment creates capital for the company to invest in new wind farms. It already has several in development. The five-year-old company owns and operates three small wind farms and has developed two large farms near Marshalltown for MidAmerican Energy Co.

Kraft said the project Google invested in qualified for wind-energy tax credits. He said he’s optimistic that Congress will extend the production credits, but the projects the company has under development aren’t dependent on them.

Stephen Dryden, an RPM owner, said the company will remain an active owner and manager of the project.


The company said the turbines are among the largest in Iowa, with 100-meter towers. Each turbine uses about a half acre of land.