Iowa wind power on course to meet federal energy goals

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Even moderate wind energy development would enable Iowa to meet federal clean power goals over the next 15 years, the Iowa Wind Energy Association said in a new report Monday.

Iowa needs about 2,300 megawatts of wind energy generation to meet the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions 16 percent by 2030.

“Iowa could meet its goals by building a modest amount of wind and taking no other action,” Mike Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, said at a news conference at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.

About half the wind power needed already is under construction, the report said. And MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy have announced plans to add another 752 megawatts.

Since 2004, Iowa has seen about $10 billion invested in wind energy.

Prior said wind energy lowers consumer costs. For example, Iowans pay 30 percent less than Wisconsin, which gets less than 2 percent of its energy from wind, he said.

About 28 percent of Iowa’s power now comes from wind, the highest in the nation. Texas leads the nation in the total wind power generated.

Prior said Iowa companies saw investment in wind long before the proposed Clean Power Plan was developed. The rule would require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 30 percent by 2030. Iowa had to reduce its emissions less than other states because of its wind power adoption.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that gets trapped in the atmosphere, experts say, and contributes to global warming and climate change.

Consultants Dan Turner and Tom Wind, who wrote the report, said the proposed effort to cut carbon emissions creates an opportunity for Iowa, given its strong wind-energy generation.

Iowa can export wind energy it doesn’t need to states such as Illinois that might struggle to meet their carbon emission reduction goals, said the consultants.

A dedicated transmission line has been proposed — the Rock Island Clean Line — to move wind energy to Illinois. But the project has run into opposition, with concerns that include the use of eminent domain to force the sale of land for the project.

Even without a dedicated line, additional excess wind can be transported through existing electrical lines as infrastructure is upgraded, Turner said.

Turner and Wind said Iowa has the capacity to generate as much as 750,000 megawatts of wind energy, but has tapped less than 1 percent. Altogether, Iowa will generate about 7,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2017, the group said. That’s enough energy to power 2.1 million homes.

So far, about 6,000 jobs in Iowa are tied to wind energy — in maintenance, manufacturing, operations and design.