DES MOINES – MidAmerican Energy Co. filed a request with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) Thursday to add 2,000 megawatts of wind generation facilities to its Iowa production network. If the $3.6 billion project is approved, the company’s total statewide production of wind energy will equal about 85 percent of its customers’ annual electricity use.
Bill Fehrman, president and chief executive officer of MidAmerican Energy, said the proposed project, called Wind XI, will be built without asking the state for financial assistance or the IUB for an increase in customer rates. He said the new wind turbines will move MidAmerican Energy closer to its goal of producing 100 percent renewable energy for its Iowa customers.
“We have a bold vision for our energy future,” Fehrman said, flanked at a morning press conference by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debby Durham. “We don’t know of another U.S. energy provider that has staked out this 100 percent position,” Fehrman said.
Two prominent environmental groups, the Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, praised the announced project.
“This is exactly the kind of wind energy project we hoped would be announced with the extension of the federal production tax credits,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director at the Iowa Environmental Council.
Fehrman said Wind XI will produce economic benefits for the state, including about $12.5 million per year in property tax payments, $18 million per year in landowner payments and $48 million per year in state and local expenditures associated with the project. Wind farms are now in operation or under construction in 23 Iowa counties, and the industry provides more than $17 million annually in land lease payments to some 2,400 rural landowners.
Branstad said he is proud of MidAmerican Energy’s long-standing and ongoing commitment to clean energy in Iowa.
“We welcome this opportunity to expand Iowa’s renewable energy and thank MidAmerican Energy for making this investment in our great state,” Branstad said. “Every wind turbine you see in Iowa means income for farmers, revenue for counties and jobs for Iowa families.”
At the end of 2015, Iowa was producing 6,212 megawatts of wind energy, which accounted for 31.3 percent of the state’s electricity mix – more than any other state in the country, according to data released by the American Wind Energy Association.
Durham said wind power supports some 7,000 jobs in Iowa. She said investments at this scale “are viable because federal production tax credits are at their highest level.”
Fehrman said asked the IUB to approve its rate-making principles by September so MidAmerican can take full advantage of the extended production tax credit available for the construction of new wind projects.
Without the federal tax credits to support the market in wind power, Iowans will pay more for building wind turbines in the future, Fehrman said. The Wind XI project has been timed to allow MidAmerican to make maximum use of the federal support.
U.S. Congressman David Young was quick to praise the development, calling the announcement “great news for folks across our state and our environment.” He said Wind XI will “further benefit our rural economy and Iowa job creators.”