Iowa to add 176 new wind turbines this year

Source: DAN PILLER • Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, January 9, 2012

MidAmerican Energy announces project to build in five counties.

MidAmerican Energy Co. said Friday that it will build 176 wind turbines with generating capacity of 407.1 megawatts in Marshall, Tama, Guthrie, Audubon and Adair counties by the end of this year.

The project was approved in 2009 by the Iowa Utilities Board as part of a 1,000-megawatt request made by MidAmerican.

Combined with the 593.4-megawatt wind project it completed last year in Adair, Adams and Cass counties, MidAmerican will have 2,284 megawatts of wind-generated electricity capacity by the end of 2012, the most of any investor-owned utilities in the United States.

Iowa’s total wind generation capacity will rise to 4,082 megawatts, keeping it in second place among the states, trailing only Texas’ 10,223 megawatts. California is third with 3,599 megawatts, Minnesota fourth with 2,681 megawatts and Illinois fifth with 2,438 megawatts.

One megawatt can power 300 to 800 houses, depending on electricity use.

Iowa and South Dakota are the only two states in the U.S. with 20 percent or more of its total electricity generation capacity represented by wind.

MidAmerican’s latest project will be completed in time for MidAmerican and its owner, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. of Omaha, to take advantage of production tax credits that expire at the end of this year.

The future of those tax credits is uncertain. Wind interests were unable to get the extension through Congress before the adjournment of the 2011 session.

Legislation recently introduced by Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would grant a four-year extension of the production tax credits.

“The clock is ticking, business decisions are being made and some damage is certain,” said American Wind Energy Association chief executive officer Denise Bode at the end of 2011.

“When Congress addresses extenders next year, we are very confident that continuing the wind manufacturing success story will be a prominent objective,” Bode added.

The possible end of the tax credits spurred a turbine building boom in the last half of 2011. The American Wind Energy Association said that a total of 3,360 megawatts of wind projects were installed in the United States through the third quarter of 2011, up 74 percent from the first three quarters of 2010.

“Wind is a viable renewable energy resource that enhances our energy portfolio, providing additional generation at a reasonable cost for our customers,” said Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy. “These projects also fulfill our commitment to Iowa regulators and our customers.”

MidAmerican is Iowa’s largest electric utility, serving Des Moines, Davenport, Iowa City, Waterloo, Sioux City, Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs.

In 2009, MidAmerican Energy received approval from the Iowa Utilities Board to add up to 1,001 megawatts of wind-powered generation before 2013.

The Marshall and Tama county projects were purchased from RPM Access.

MidAmerican Energy also signed agreements with Clipper Windpower Development Co. for the acquisition of both the 200.1-megawatt Eclipse wind project, located in Guthrie and Audubon counties, and the 101.2-megawatt Morning Light wind project, located in Adair County.

In addition to the wind-generating facilities, Iowa has wind turbine or tower factories at Fort Madison, West Branch, Cedar Rapids and Newton that employ about 2,000 workers.