Iowa's wind energy industry poised for growth

AWEA Iowa wind energy report

A new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Wind Energy Foundation finds that 28 percent of Iowa’s electricity was generated by wind in 2014, and that up to 40 percent of its energy could come from wind by 2020. The report is based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Iowa has the highest percentage of wind energy on its electrical grid in the country. The state’s wind industry recently participated in a panel on wind energy at Des Moines Community College’s Ankeny campus, as reported by Iowa Public Radio. At the meeting, Mike Prior of the Iowa Wind Energy Association noted that last year’s lapse in the production tax credit poses challenges to the industry, since new wind facilities will no longer receive the 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour during a facility’s first decade of operation.

The panel also pointed out that Iowa’s infrastructure needs to be updated, saying that Iowa’s wind energy potential is so large that electricity could eventually be sold to other states, but only if the grid capacity is improved. Clean Line Energy Partners are currently working to expand grid capacity via a 3,500 megawatt transmission line that will send wind power east to Illinois, and as far away as Maryland.

"Right now we are engaged in the regulatory process in Iowa, so working through our siting, working through our engineering," says Beth Conley, a Des Moines-based manager for Clean Line Energy. "We are in conversations with both costumers in the east that would be interested in purchasing the power, and also costumers in the west that are interested in developing this wind power to move east."

"We're centrally located in the United States. We have good wind resources, especially in the northern half of Iowa. And we have enough people in the state who need electricity," says consulting engineer Tom Wind. "If you look at the states to the west of us like in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, they have great wind resources too. But there just aren't very many people living out there, so their needs for electricity are lower."

The report notes that growth in the wind industry could create 380,000 jobs nationwide by 2030 and $49 million dollars in tax revenues annually for Iowa by 2020.

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