Joe gardyasz is the Business Record’s Energy & Utilities beat reporter.
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Exporting Iowa’s wind energy
Utility companies and power cooperatives plan to spend billions of dollars in the next several years to expand networks to transmit electricity generated by Midwest wind farms.
Industry officials say that building more transmission capacity is critical to the future of Iowa’s wind energy industry. Growth now is constrained by limited transmission capacity from Midwest states to more densely populated areas where demand for electricity is growing the fastest.
Among the projects in the planning stages is Rock Island Clean Line, a proposed 500-mile direct-current line that would transmit electricity generated by wind farms in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to Illinois.
Expanding electric transmission networks will create significant opportunities for construction companies and other businesses servicing the utilities industry. Anywhere from 17,000 to nearly 40,000 construction jobs could be created in the Midwest, according to estimates on some of the projects. Read full story
Wind energy tax credits, investments stall
Despite efforts by members of Iowa’s congressional delegation and Gov. Terry Branstad early in 2012, no action was taken to extend the wind energy production tax credit that expires next week.
The credit, which has been extended four times and allowed to sunset on three occasions since it was originally enacted in 1992, provides companies that own wind farms a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit in the first 10 years of operation. From 1994 to 2007, the credits have cost the federal government an estimated $2.7 billion in forgone tax revenues.
Wind energy developers stopped ordering turbines for installation in 2012 because of the uncertainty about the continuation of the credit, the delegation said in February. A recent report by industry consultant Navigant Consulting Inc. estimated that letting the credit expire would reduce U.S. wind energy jobs by nearly 50 percent. Read full story
MidAmerican launches renewables subsidiary
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. established a new business in January to support the company’s move into the unregulated renewable-energy market. MidAmerican Renewables LLC will oversee wind, geothermal, solar and hydroelectric projects that produce energy to be sold in the renewables market.
Based in Des Moines, MidAmerican Renewables includes MidAmerican Wind LLC; MidAmerican Geothermal LLC; MidAmerican Solar LLC; MidAmerican Hydro LLC; and project development and commercial management.
When it was formed, the new subsidiary initially owned 1,258 megawatts of generation capacity, some of which are renewable-energy projects under development that the company had recently acquired in Illinios, Arizona and California. Read full story