Iowa reaches new high mark for wind energy

Alliant, MidAmerican Energy expanding major projects

A construction worker stands atop a Vestas V82 wind turbine waiting for the Fiberglas blades to be lifted into position in early October 2009 at Alliant Energy/Interstate Power and Light’s Whispering Willow wind farm in Franklin County. The company recently received regulator approval for a $3 billion expansion of the wind farm. (Alliant Energy/Interstate Power and Light)
A construction worker stands atop a Vestas V82 wind turbine waiting for the Fiberglas blades to be lifted into position in early October 2009 at Alliant Energy/Interstate Power and Light’s Whispering Willow wind farm in Franklin County. The company recently received regulator approval for a $3 billion expansion of the wind farm. (Alliant Energy/Interstate Power and Light)

DES MOINES — For the first time, more than a third of Iowa’s electricity is generated by wind power, according to a study published Thursday.

Wind energy provided 35.8 percent of the electricity generated in Iowa in the year spanning August 2015 to July 2016, according to the report published by the American Wind Energy Association.

That’s the highest percentage ever for Iowa, which has the highest rate of wind energy production in the nation.

“In Iowa, we embrace our renewable energy leadership,” Gov. Terry Branstad said at a news conference Thursday at the Iowa Capitol.

In 1983, during his first stint as governor, Branstad signed into law a state renewable energy requirement, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, authored the federal tax credit for wind energy production.

“As I’m fond of saying, wind is winning,” said Chris Brown, the American Wind Energy Association’s board chairman and president of the wind energy company Vestas Americas. “Wind is winning here in Iowa, wind is winning in America, and wind will continue to win in the rest of the world.”

Iowa is second in the country to Texas in wind energy production, with installed capacity of more than 6,000 megawatts, which is enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 1.6 million average U.S. homes, according to the report. Texas’ capacity is more than 18,000 megawatts.

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Iowa’s rate of wind energy as a share of all electricity production is highest in the nation; Kansas and South Dakota are next at just more than 25 percent.

“Iowa is blessed with tremendous renewable resources, and we’re well-positioned to continue to build on that leading position,” Branstad said.

Spokesmen for Iowa’s biggest utility companies, MidAmerica Energy and Alliant Energy, spoke at the news conference, both highlighting major wind energy projects under way.

MidAmerica’s $3.6 billion Wind XI project at multiple sites across Iowa is part of the company’s goal of producing wind-supported electricity at 100 percent of its customers’ rate of usage.

Alliant recently received state approval for a $1 billion project at its Whispering Willow wind farm in Franklin County.

“Wind is producing an ever-increasing percentage of the energy our customers use,” said Terry Kouba, vice president at Alliant Energy. “The benefits for Iowans and Iowa communities are undeniable.”

Nearly $12 billion in capital investment on wind energy projects has been made in Iowa and the industry supports roughly 7,000 jobs, according to the report.

The industry and elected officials who spoke at Thursday’s news conference praised the federal tax credit for wind energy production. The program recently was extended by five years over the objection of some lawmakers who oppose energy subsidies.

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