August 5, 2017

Alliant seeks $890 million wind energy proposal; New project would add 500 megawatts to Iowa

Mitchell Schmidt | The Gazette | Aug 4, 2017 |

CEDAR RAPIDS – Alliant Energy announced Thursday it plans to pursue another large-scale wind energy project that would add up to 500 megawatts of wind power in Iowa.

The request needs the approval of the Iowa Utilities Board. A decision is expected early next year.

If the project is approved and completed, wind will compose more than one-third of Alliant’s energy mix by 2020, a news release from the utility said.

The proposal didn’t specify a location.

“The customers and communities we serve will benefit from this cost-effective clean energy,” Alliant President Doug Kopp said in the release. “Our wind projects will help keep energy costs stable over the long-term for customers.”

Combined with another 500 MW wind project – planned for the utility’s Whispering Willow Wind Farm in Franklin County – announced last year, Alliant will spend about $1.8 billion on 1,000 MW of wind energy in the next three years.

The project marks yet another addition to the state’s growing network of wind turbines.

Investments such as those by Alliant and the state’s other main utility provider, MidAmerican Energy, have made Iowa a leader in wind energy. Iowa’s wind generation accounts for more than one-third of the state’s total energy production – ranking first in the nation in that category.

MidAmerican last year announced a $3.6 billion investment in wind energy. The utility produces 55 percent of the annual power consumption of its customers with wind.

By 2020, the utility will be at 90 percent and on its way to produce 100 percent of customer power consumption through wind power.

“Iowa has seen tremendous benefits from the expansion of the wind energy industry in our state,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said in a news release.

Gov. Kim Reynolds also applauded Iowa’s wind power sector.

“Our state has the sixth-lowest energy costs in the nation, helping spark success for Iowa businesses, communities and families. If approved, today’s expansion proposal will help keep those rates low by adding up to a thousand megawatts of new wind generation in our state,” Reynolds said in the release.

A March Iowa Policy Project report found the cost per kilowatt-hour in Iowa not only has remained lower than the national average, but the gap has been increasing.

According to the report, the cost of energy in Iowa for residential, commercial and industrial use went from 6.04 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1998 – before Iowa began connecting wind farms to the power grid – to 8.35 cents in 2015.

Meanwhile, the national average increased from 6.74 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1998 to 10.33 cents in 2015.

When adjusted for inflation, Iowans spent about .43 cents less per kilowatt-hour in 2015 than they did in 1998, the report states. In the same span, national energy costs increased by about .53 cents per kilowatt-hour, when adjusted for inflation.

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