MidAmerican expands Iowa wind foothold

Source: By Matthew Patane, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, October 13, 2014


Iowa’s reputation as a leader in wind energy production got another boost Friday when MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest an additional $280 million in the renewable energy.

The Des Moines-based utility will add 67 wind turbines at two western Iowa locations.

Most of the turbines, 64 of them, will go to a new wind farm in Adams County in southwest Iowa. The other three will expand an existing O’Brien County wind farm in northwest Iowa.

The turbines have the potential to generate 162 megawatts of energy, enough to power 48,000 homes, company officials said.

Iowa is one of the leading states in the production of wind energy.

More than 27 percent of the state’s energy comes from wind, the highest state percentage in the nation, according to a 2014 report by the American Wind Energy Association.

Iowa also has the seventh-best wind resource, or potential for wind energy generation, in the U.S.

William Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican, said the company is continuing to invest in wind projects because they are a good way to reduce costs for customers and bring the state closer to meeting goals for reducing carbon emissions.

Wind generation “… continues the drive to reduce our overall carbon footprint and better position ourselves and our customers and our state to the changing regulatory environment,” he said.

Last year MidAmerican began construction on $1.9 billion worth of turbines in five Iowa counties.

That project will add 450 turbines in Grundy, Madison, Marshall, O’Brien and Webster counties, and create 1,050 megawatts of energy, or enough to power 317,000 homes, according to the company.

Combined with the expansion announced Friday, Fehrman said the O’Brien County wind farm would be the largest in the state of Iowa and produce 502 megawatts of energy.

MidAmerican will contract with Siemens, a German-based engineering and electronics company, to build the blades and other components of the wind turbines. Siemens has a manufacturing plant in Fort Madison.

The Iowa Utilities Board still has to give regulatory approval for the $280 million project. Fehrman said his company would file its paperwork with the board Friday.

The utility is not asking for financial assistance from local or state officials, but MidAmerican will pursue federal tax credits offered for wind energy projects, Fehrman said.

If approved, MidAmerican said construction would start at the two sites next summer and be complete by the end of the year.

The two projects would create about 200 construction jobs, and once complete, MidAmerican said the sites would require at least 10 permanent positions.

The company made the announcement during a news conference with Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Branstad said the project is “the latest evidence of MidAmerican Energy’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to renewable energy.” He also said this and other wind projects help the state attract companies such as Microsoft and Google.

“Major companies from across the country and around the world are looking at Iowa as a place to locate facilities due to our commitment to providing sustainable, affordable energy solutions,” Branstad said.

Earlier this year, MidAmerican signed an agreement with Google to provide 407 megawatts of wind-sourced energy for Google’s Council Bluffs data center.

When its construction projects are complete, MidAmerican will have 21 wind-energy locations in the state.

Altogether, Fehrman said the company has invested about $6 billion in Iowa wind energy.

MidAmerican’s wind projects

Once MidAmerican Energy’s most recent projects are complete, here’s how the utility’s investment in wind will stack up:

21 wind projects across 22counties.

$6 billion invested.

3,500 megawatt production capacity.

More than 1 million homes that could be powered.

Source: MidAmerican Energy

Energy generated in Iowa

Iowans get their energy from a number of sources. This was the breakdown from a 2012 Iowa Utilities Board report:

62.3 percent coal.

24.8 percent wind.

7.7 percent nuclear.

3.4 percent natural gas.

1.4 percent hydropower.

Less than 1 percent other renewables and petroleum.