Today's Des Monies Register has a front page headline in its print edition -- 656 wind turbines are coming to Iowa that will bring a $1.9 billion windfall to the state. The front page has a quote from Nathaniel Baer of the Iowa Environmental Council: "I think it is a welcome development for wind energy, the Iowa environment, and the economy." With the feds stuck in sequestration mode, state and private authorities are stepping up and providing an economic windfall to Iowa.
The company in question, Mid American, is a utility company serving 714,000 customers in the Midwest. They have invested heavily in wind power in Iowa since 2004:
MidAmerican Energy began installing wind turbines in 2004 and is a recognized leader in the use and development of renewable energy. No other U.S. rate-regulated utility owns more wind-powered generation capacity.State and utility leaders say that their latest move will hold down utility bills and create new jobs in the state at a time when the country and state needs them most. This debunks the claim made by some that more wind will lead to higher utility bills for customers.
In December 2010, MidAmerican Energy announced it would add 593.4 megawatts of new wind-powered generation in Iowa. The projects included the 443.9-megawatt Rolling Hills wind project, located in Adair, Adams and Cass counties; the 119.6-megawatt Laurel wind project, located in Marshall County; and the 29.9-megawatt Pomeroy wind expansion project, located in Pocahontas and Calhoun counties. The final portion of the 593.4-megawatt expansion project was placed in-service by year-end 2011.
In 2012, MidAmerican Energy solidified its No. 1 ranking when it completed a 407-megawatt wind expansion project in Iowa.
The American Wind Energy Association, in figures quoted by the Register, notes that Iowa has 5137 megawatts of wind power, third in the nation. Iowa has 25% of its electric power generated by wind, first in the nation. And there are 6,000 to 7,000 jobs created by wind, primarily at wind manufacturing plants. Wind power has bipartisan support in Iowa, a rarity in politics these days; Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad, an institution in Iowa, says that is the largest investment ever in the state.
MidAmerican, in figures quoted by the Register, said that the project would create 460 construction jobs, 48 permanent jobs (a big boost for the small communities where they are located), lower power rates in order to attract more companies to the state, greener power, $3.2 million in annual lease payments to farmers, and $360 million in additional property taxes to the 14 counties which will benefit.
MidAmerican was able to do the project at no additional cost to customers thanks to the Wind Energy Tax Credit. According to a sideline article, this issue helped propel Obama to victory in the state of Iowa, despite the Register endorsing Mitt Romney. Romney had opposed the extension of the credit.
Not only is Iowa's wind-friendly policy leading directly to the creation of thousands of jobs, it is indirectly leading to the creation of many more. The Register article notes that Facebook is building a $300 million data center in Altoona thanks to the state's green power and is also looking into building its own wind farm. Facebook has pledged itself to getting to 25% wind power. The $300 million that Facebook is investing, as the Register notes, is just the first phase.
The National Renewable Energy Labratory provided statistics to the Register that show that Iowa is the 7th windiest state in the union and has the capability to add on 44 times the amount of wind power that it currently uses. In other words, Iowa has the capability of getting to the point where it can derive all of its power from wind. Another issue commonly brought up is bird kills. However, Iowa has solved the problem of bird kills by building its turbines in a ridge formation instead of a grid formation. The Register quotes the Iowa DNR as saying that birds are much less likely to be killed by wind turbines than by windows or power lines.