By Katelyn Weisbrod
Iowa may soon be well on its way to generating 40 percent of its energy from wind.
The state is the No. 1 wind energy producer in the nation, with 31 percent of energy coming from the energy source, but an announcement from MidAmerican Energy Company on April 14 revealed that by 2019, that statistic could be as high as 40 percent.
MidAmerican, the energy company that serves Iowa City, announced that they plan to invest $3.6 billion into building new wind farms in the state, generating 2,000 megawatt hours of electricity.
“This is the largest project MidAmerican Energy has ever undertaken, and the largest economic development investment in Iowa history,” Ruth Comer, media relations manager for MidAmerican Energy, wrote in an email. “This project provides benefits for customers, communities, the environment, and Iowa’s economy.”
The project is pending approval from the Iowa Utilities Board. If approved, Comer said, the project should be completed by the end of 2019.
This project will bring MidAmerican’s wind energy rate up from 47 percent to 85 percent, but they have a vision of reaching 100 percent renewable energy. Comer said MidAmerican is looking into additional opportunities to expand their renewable portfolio.
At a panel discussion on Wednesday on the topic of climate change, David Osterberg, a University of Iowa clinical professor of Occupational & Environmental Health, praised MidAmerican for their renewable efforts.
“No other company in America is doing as well as them,” Osterberg said.
UI Provost P. Barry Butler also said MidAmerican is a leader in wind energy development. Butler serves on the American Wind Energy Association.
“This announcement is huge, it’s a significant dollar amount and a significant amount of megawatt hours,” Butler said. “Their statement was very positive about the future for wind, so they’re considered a real leader.”
Comer said wind energy helps keep electricity prices stable and affordable.
“There are no fuel costs associated with wind power generation – wind is free and abundant in Iowa,” Comer wrote in an email. “We are not requesting any increase in the rates our customers pay or any financial assistance from the state of Iowa to fund this project.”
MidAmerican has already invested $6.6 billion in wind energy since they built their first wind farm in 2004.
There are several economic benefits to wind energy, including stable energy rates, property tax revenues for schools and counties, and job opportunities. Wind energy is also environmentally beneficial, as it decreases demand for nonrenewable, carbon-emitting fuels like coal.