The Iowa Utilities Board last week approved plans for construction of a wind turbine farm that will be the nation’s largest wind energy project. Des Moines-based
MidAmerican Energy Company received the final okay from state regulatory officials for Wind XI, a $3.6 billion wind turbine operation that will generate up to 2,000 megawatts of electricity. MidAmerican officials say that’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 800,000 average households, and the project will see 85% of the company’s Iowa customer needs met through wind energy by year 2020.
The American Wind Energy Association says this will be the nation’s largest wind energy facility when it goes into full operation, which is expected in late 2019. MidAmerican announced the proposed project in April, and now Iowa regulators have given it the go ahead. The company says the location of the 1,000 turbines for the project is still being determined.
Company has a vision of supplying 100% renewable energy
IUB’s action “is a positive step toward the company’s 100% renewable vision. This is an exciting day for our customers, the state of Iowa and MidAmerican Energy,” said Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of the company. “We thank the Iowa Utilities Board for its support and for moving quickly to deliver this ruling.”
Wind XI is the largest wind project MidAmerican Energy has ever undertaken and officials say the utility is not asking for an increase in customer rates or financial assistance from the state to pay for it.
Wind XI will consist of multiple sites across Iowa, which are still being finalized. The wind turbine sites will be placed into service over a three-year period, with the first sites being placed into service in 2017. The last sites will be placed into service in 2019.
Wind energy helps keep electricity prices more affordable
"Wind energy helps us keep prices stable and more affordable for customers, provides jobs and economic benefits for communities and the state, and contributes to a cleaner environment for everyone," Fehrman says.
The project will push MidAmerican's total investment in wind energy to more than $10 billion, he says. It is also expected to generate more than $1.2 billion in landowner easement and property tax payments over the next 40 years. Additionally, during construction, it is expected that thousands of jobs will be added to Iowa's economy and hundreds of new permanent jobs will be added when the expansion is complete.
"We have a bold vision for our energy future," Fehrman said when the project was announced in April at a press conference with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. "We don't know of another U.S. energy provider that has staked out this 100% position. Our customers want more renewable energy, and we couldn't agree more. Once the project is complete, we will generate wind energy equal to 85% of our annual customer sales in Iowa, bringing us within striking distance of our 100% renewable vision."
Will be first state to generate over 40% of its electricity from wind
Branstad says MidAmerican Energy's commitment to clean energy has helped make Iowa a national leader in renewable energy.
"Wind XI puts Iowa on track to be the first state in the nation to generate more than 40% of its electrical energy needs from wind power - far ahead of any other state," the governor said. "Today, Iowa is the only state to have crossed the 30% mark. We welcome this opportunity to expand Iowa's renewable energy and thank MidAmerican Energy for making this investment in our great state. Every wind turbine you see in Iowa means income for farmers, revenue for counties and jobs for Iowa families."
MidAmerican serves 752,000 electric customers and 733,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. The firm is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa.