MidAmerican Energy Co. on Wednesday announced plans to add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation in the state within the next two years, consisting of up to 656 new wind turbines by the end of 2015. With the expansion, approximately 40 percent of the company's electricity production will be generated by wind.
The wind expansion will enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years, MidAmerican officials said.
In a press conference, Gov. Terry Branstad said the nearly $2 billion project "has broad implications for Iowa's energy future." The state is not providing any economic development incentives or tax credits for the project, he said.
“As a leader in wind generation, the state of Iowa welcomes the opportunity to expand our renewable energy portfolio," Branstad said in a release. "MidAmerican Energy’s proposed project will be the largest economic development investment in the history of the state, bringing needed jobs to Iowa, as well as significant economic benefits.”
Earlier this year, Iowa became the first state in the nation to generate more than 20 percent of its electricity from wind. Wind-generated electricity made up 24.5 percent of all electricity generated in Iowa in 2012.
Limited transmission capacity has been a hurdle to significantly expanding wind farms in Iowa. MidAmerican Energy and other utility companies have been working to increase electric transmission capacity from Iowa to other states within the Midwest and beyond, with plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new transmission capacity. Click here to read a Business Record story about transmission projects that have been proposed for the state.
The exact sites for MidAmerican Energy’s new wind turbines will not be announced for several months, but they will be located in areas where the greatest concentrations of wind farms are already located, officials said.
Payments to landowners totaling $3.2 million per year also are expected as a result of the expansion. In addition, the expansion is planned to be built at no net cost to the company’s customers and will help stabilize electric rates long-term by providing a rate reduction totaling $10 million per year by 2017, commencing with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015.
The expansion is expected to create approximately 460 construction jobs over a two-year period and an estimated 48 new permanent jobs.
If the expansion is approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, MidAmerican Energy will own and operate approximately 3,335 megawatts of wind generation capacity in Iowa by the end of 2015.
Currently, MidAmerican Energy owns and operates approximately 2,285 megawatts of wind generation capacity in Iowa and is first in the United States for ownership of wind generation capacity among rate-regulated utilities.