An industry report released Friday highlighted the steep challenges facing wind energy development nationwide as federal and state governments push a green transition.
The report – titled “Hawkeye State Headwinds” and published by ClearPath, a group that promotes clean energy and low-emissions technology – is a case study of efforts in Iowa to expand wind production through additional turbine farms. ClearPath, which studied Iowa since it is a leader in wind energy production, found that new projects have been slowed in the state thanks to growing local opposition and siting challenges.
“The path to achieve America’s clean energy goals must be economically sustainable, politically realistic and technologically feasible,” ClearPath CEO Rich Powell said in a statement Friday. “This report highlights how challenging a clean energy transition would be if we put all our eggs into one basket.”
“We should focus on a clean energy portfolio approach that includes wind and solar, and other baseload clean energy assets like nuclear energy as well as coal and gas with carbon capture,” he continued.
In 2021, Iowa generated more than 55% of its electricity from wind sources, the largest share of any state, according to the Energy Information Administration. Iowa is able to produce such a large wind energy output due to the heavy wind conditions that exist in the northwestern part of the state.
However, further wind development has faced large opposition across the state with 16 of its 99 counties implementing prohibitions on new wind in recent years, according to the ClearPath report. At least 49% of potential development areas in Iowa have been ruled out for future wind projects.
The report showed that, as moratoria on wind development have become more common in Iowa, fewer wind projects have been completed.
“The prevalence and stringency of wind ordinances are increasing across the U.S., with numerous states, particularly in the Midwest, having some level of local siting authority and adopting prohibitive ordinances for wind development,” the report stated.
Between 2019 and 2021, local governments have rejected or restricted nearly 100 proposed wind projects, according to a database from the Center of the American Experiment.
In addition, locals in Iowa have consistently opposed new transmission line projects which are needed to carry energy from wind farms to plants, according to the report Friday. Every transmission project proposed over the last five years has faced opposition.
“Reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require a massive infrastructure build-out over the next 28 years. But, not all net-zero pathways that have been modeled are actually feasible,” said Spencer Nelson, ClearPath’s managing director of research, said in a statement. “Policies that support technology-neutral decarbonization and either the reuse or optimization of existing infrastructure and rights of way are essential.”
Meanwhile, up to 17 times more wind deployment is required to meet net-zero emission goals, according to ClearPath.
A report on offshore wind from the Global Wind Energy Council similarly noted that while a record 21.1 gigawatts of offshore wind was connected around the world last year, that figure fell far short of what is needed to reach net-zero. The international Energy Agency said 70 to 80 gigawatts of offshore wind must be installed annually by 2050 to transition from fossil fuel dependence.
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