Report: Wind could supply 40 percent of Iowa energy by 2020

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Friday, July 17, 2015

Iowa could meet 40 percent of its energy needs from wind power within five years, according to an industry report Thursday that looks at the state’s wind generation potential.

The state could push its wind-energy mix to 41 percent in 2020 and supply enough power to more than match its energy usage by 2030, with excess energy to export to other states, the American Wind Energy Association said Thursday.

While wind power could hypothetically surpass Iowa’s total energy demand, it and other states will still need power from natural gas, coal and nuclear energy as large-scale storage becomes more widely available for wind and solar energy, experts say. “The technology gets better and better each year,” said Mike Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association.

Pushing the amount of energy Iowa gets from wind could create significant benefits for the environment and economy, according to the Washington-based advocacy group. It provided the state outlook, based on recent data released by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Here are four benefits Iowa could see from boosted wind generation in five, 15 and 35 years, the association says:

•Lower utility bills: Iowa consumers could save $3.68 billion in lower electricity bills through 2050 with increased wind generation.

•More property taxes: Increased investment in wind farms would boost property tax revenues for government services $49.1 million annually by 2020 and nearly $137 million annually by 2030.

•Increased income: Farmers, ranchers and landowners could see land lease payments climb from $17.1 million annually to nearly $20 million annually by 2020 to $55.5 million annually by 2030.

•Environmental perks: Iowa could save on the amount of water used to generate energy, avoiding the use of 3.76 billion gallons of water annually by 2020 and 4.27 billion gallons by 2030. A reduction in carbon pollution, which contributes to climate change, would be the equivalent to removing 1.36 million cars annually from roads by 2020 and 1.66 million annually by 2030.

The federal report indicates that Iowa could see 1,400 on-site construction, operations and maintenance jobs by 2030. It doesn’t include manufacturing projections for the state, but it estimates wind would support 142,000 factory jobs nationally.

Manufacturing wind turbine blades and towers has been a growing industry in Iowa, with factories in Newton, Fort Madison and elsewhere.

Iowa’s report was released at Des Moines Area Community College on Thursday. Industry advocates are calling for an extension of tax credits that make investing in wind energy more financially attractive.

The federal “Wind Vision Report” said the U.S. could get 10 percent of its energy from wind by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030. The nation only gets about 4.5 percent of its power from wind now.

Wind in Iowa today

$10 billion — Total investment in Iowa wind farms

7,000 — Iowa jobs in wind industry

3.5 billion — Gallons of water not used annually due to wind generation

1.3 million — Number of cars removed from roads with wind power