MidAmerican investing $900 million more in Iowa wind energy

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, May 4, 2015

Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy said Friday it’s investing $900 million more into wind energy, bringing the company’s total wind investment to $6.7 billion.

The utility filed plans with the Iowa Utilities Board for the development of up to 552 megawatts of new wind generation in Iowa.

The news comes as leaders of Berkshire Hathaway, the parent of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which owns MidAmerican, gather in Omaha this weekend for the company’s annual meeting.

MidAmerican Energy is in the process of obtaining necessary permits and easements for the construction of wind farms at two new sites, it said Friday.

Pending the state board’s approval, the company plans to begin construction in spring 2016, it said, with completion scheduled for the end of 2016.

Gov. Terry Branstad said in a statement that MidAmerican Energy’s efforts have helped the state become a national leader in wind generation. “Iowa derives a greater percentage of its electricity from wind than any other state, and we’re second in the nation in the number of people employed in the wind industry,” Branstad said.

“Thanks to our low electricity prices and commitment to renewable energy, major tech companies and other energy-intensive businesses are interested in locating and expanding facilities here, which is good economic news for all Iowans,” he said.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft have cited affordable energy, much of it from renewable energy, as key to billions of dollars invested in large data centers in Iowa.

Bill Fehrman, CEO of MidAmerican, said the company is excited about building on its ability to “produce clean, carbon-free energy,”

“Wind continues to be a factor in keeping our customers’ electricity rates among the lowest in the nation,” he said in a statement.

Increasing the company’s investment in wind turbines gives MidAmerican Energy the ability to reduce its reliance on coal, it said, which helps protect customers from rising costs associated with meeting stricter environmental standards.

“If we look back a little more than a decade ago, we did not own any wind generation resources across our system,” Fehrman said in a statement.

“Once the proposed projects are completed, we’re projecting that 57 percent of our total retail load could be served with energy from these turbines,” Fehrman said. “This puts us in a strong position to comply with future carbon emissions limits without placing the significant financial burden of that compliance on our customers.”

Fehrman said that over the next 30 years, the utility’s wind projects will generate an estimated $1.5 billion in property taxes and lease payments to local landowners and governments.