More Than Half of Iowa’s Electricity Now Comes From Wind, As State Approaches 6,000 Turbines | Farm Forum
The proportion of Iowa’s energy coming from the wind jumped to nearly 60% last year, the largest in the country, as a growing number of turbines came online, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.
Despite the global pandemic and recession, utilities and developers in Iowa added about 540 turbines last year, bringing the total to nearly 5,900, according to the American Clean Power Association.
Iowa’s total operating capacity soared to 11,660 megawatts in 2020, up 13% from 2019, when 44% of Iowa’s net power generation – already a prominent proportion in the country – came from wind power, according to federal data. The proportion for 2020 was 59.6%.
Wind generation is an even more important source of energy in parts of the state, including much of the Des Moines metro. MidAmerican Energy, Iowa’s largest electricity supplier, told the Des Moines Register that wind provides more than 80% of its energy, “which is significantly up from 2019 at 61% and is far ahead of most investor-owned utility companies. “
Iowa has become a national model for harnessing renewable energy, says the Iowa Environmental Council.
President Joe Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan calls for allocating $ 100 billion over a decade to build a “carbon-free electricity sector by 2035.” It would invest in the country’s power lines and energy grid, expanding renewables and storage, and recycling the workforce, among other initiatives.
The clean energy goal would put the nation on “an irreversible path to a net zero economy by 2050,” the president’s plan says.
The fact that Iowa has reached nearly “60% wind generation at this point tells us that the 100% renewable target by 2050 is achievable,” said Steve Guyer, the council’s energy and climate policy specialist. environmental.
With the Biden administration also pushing a nationwide conversion to electric cars, trucks, and other vehicles, Iowa would need to at least triple its wind power capacity – and six-fold solar power production – to be powered 100% by renewable energy by 2050, an Iowa Environmental Council report shows.
“Transportation will dramatically increase Iowa’s need … for more electricity,” Guyer said.
Already, solar power is set to take a big leap forward in Iowa, with seven major projects under development or recently completed. They would add about 1,740 megawatts if completed, nine times more solar capacity than there is currently, according to statements from the Iowa Utilities Board.
Wind, however, has become the primary source of Iowa’s net power generation. It overtook coal in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration. Coal, which provided 71% of the state’s energy needs in 2010, had fallen to 22% a decade later.
The Iowa Environmental Council, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the Sierra Club have pushed MidAmerican Energy and other utilities to retire even more coal-fired power plants while increasing investment in renewable energy.
The groups argued in December that Des Moines-based MidAmerican, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, would save $ 92 million if it cut two coal-fired power plants near Sioux City by 2023.
“We must continue to take advantage of the opportunities to add more low-cost wind and solar resources to replace dirty and unprofitable coal-fired power plants,” said Josh Mandelbaum, Des Moines City Council member and Law Center attorney. environmental policy.
“If we take these steps, consumers will benefit from lower tariffs; local governments will benefit from broadening their tax base; our economy will create jobs and we will help create a more sustainable future,” he said. he declared in an e-mail addressed to the Register.
Alliant Energy, Iowa’s second-largest utility, in October announced plans to retire its coal-fired power plant from Lansing in northeast Iowa over the next two years, as it moved to more sources of solar, wind and renewable energy. The plant’s withdrawal is part of Alliant’s larger goal to phase coal out of its power generation system by 2040, the company said.
Opposition to turbines growing in Iowa
Proponents say wind farms provide necessary tax revenue for rural counties, towns and schools as well as farmers. Last year, the wind industry paid $ 69.5 million in state and local taxes and about $ 78.5 million in lease payments to farmers and landowners, the American Clean Power Association said.
But opposition to wind power development has grown in Iowa. Some neighbors of wind farms say the noise of turbines and spinning blades cause headaches, nausea and interrupt sleep, among other problems. And they say landowners who receive wind turbine lease payments often don’t live near and feel the effects of turbines.
In January, Madison County supervisors approved wind development withdrawal requirements that opponents said amounted to a ban on turbines. MidAmerican, which has a planned wind power project in the county, is challenging the order in court.
In 2019, the Madison County Board of Health recommended that turbines be built further away from homes. The council said the current distances from commercial wind turbines were “insufficient to protect public health.”
Jeff Danielson, former Iowa state senator and central region director of the Clean Power Association, said residents still have “strong opinions” about building energy infrastructure.
“When wind farms are proposed, and there is an open and transparent conversation about the benefits and costs of that, most Iowans agree that this is what we should be doing now. And we should be doing more. in the future, ”said Danielson, who represented part of Black Hawk County in the Statehouse for nearly 15 years.
Other Midwestern states are also investing heavily in renewables, he said. Last year, the wind supplied 43% of Kansas’ energy needs; 35% from Oklahoma; and 31% from North Dakota. Texas, with nearly 10 times the population of Iowa, has the most installed wind power capacity, but in 2020 it only got 20% of its wind power.
Statistics for other states include electricity generation in commercial and industrial facilities. A comparable percentage in Iowa would be 58% last year and 42% in 2019.
Record national growth in production capacity
Nationally, a record amount of wind generation capacity was installed last year, according to the Energy Information Administration, due to the expected loss of a production tax credit. But in December, Congress extended the wind development tax credit for another year – and for solar development, for two years.
Biden’s infrastructure proposal calls for credits for the development, storage and transmission of clean energy for 10 years. Guyer said credits under Biden’s proposal would also be “more attractive,” offering direct payment upfront.
Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill that would double the amount the state sets aside each year for solar energy tax credits to $ 10 million. With the installation of more solar panels in Iowa, there are years of waiting to receive payment for credits.
Renewable energy costs are now lower than fossil fuels, and Danielson said utilities like MidAmerican view renewable energy as a way to keep costs low for consumers. MidAmerican has said its electricity costs are the 13th lowest in the country.
Danielson also said clean energy was attractive to companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, which all have large data centers in central Iowa.
These tech companies see “that access to clean energy is important, not only for their bottom line, but also for their long-term sustainability,” Danielson said.