MidAmerican Energy announced plans Thursday to nearly double its capacity to produce electricity in Iowa with wind turbine power.
The investment could approach nearly $1 billion, said Greg Abel, president of Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.
MidAmerican’s expansion plans include erecting one wind turbine at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to produce electricity and draw attention to wind energy in Iowa.
MidAmerican currently operates 323 wind turbines at three sites in northwest, north-central and west-central Iowa. These 323 turbines can produce up to 459.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 144,000 homes.
MidAmerican also expects to complete an 82 wind-turbine farm in Pocahontas County later this year, which will have the capacity to produce 123 megawatts.
The expansion plan calls for adding another 540 megawatts of wind energy by 2013, although Dean Crist, a MidAmerican vice president, said the majority of the work is expected to be completed by 2008.
Some additional turbines could be added in Pocahontas County, and other turbine farms would be built at locations that haven’t yet been selected, the utility said.
The lone turbine at the fairgrounds – which is expected to be completed before this year’s fair – could provide electricity equal to one-quarter of the amount used by fairgrounds operations in a year, said Gary Slater, the fair’s chief executive.
The plans must be approved by the Iowa Utilities Board. The turbine will be built in part with money from a MidAmerican program that invited customers to voluntarily support the construction of renewable energy sources in Iowa.
Gov. Chet Culver, at a news conference with MidAmerican leaders, praised the project, saying it will help position Iowa as a leader in the production and use of renewable energy sources such as wind, biofuels and the sun.
“We are thrilled about the announcement today,” Culver said.
Culver also challenged Iowa utilities to increase the state’s wind energy capacity to 2,015 megawatts of electricity by the year 2015. This would strengthen Iowa’s position as one of the top producers of wind energy among the 50 states; Iowa currently ranks No. 3 behind Texas and California.
Right now, wind energy accounts for about 5 percent of the electricity generated in Iowa, said Chuck Seel, a utilities board spokesman.
MidAmerican said the use of wind energy is good for the Iowa environment. Wind energy doesn’t produce harmful airborne emissions. MidAmerican likens the environmental savings of the 1,123 megawatts to removing more than 682,000 vehicles – 43 percent of the Iowa total – from the road.
MidAmerican began erecting wind turbines after then-Gov. Tom Vilsack issued a challenge in 2003 similar to Culver’s.
Vilsack asked utilities, businesses and regulatory officials to work together to put Iowa’s total of renewable energy electricity at 1,000 megawatts by 2010. Iowa is on track to reach that by the end of the year.
Allan Urlis, a MidAmerican spokesman, said the utility doesn’t plan to ask for state or local government incentives for the project.
Crist said wind energy does get a federal tax credit that makes it economically feasible.
MidAmerican also announced a $1 million contribution over the next 10 years to the fair and the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, which sponsors improvements to the fair and fairgrounds.
By William Ryeberg
20 April 2007
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