by Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register
MidAmerican Energy said Wednesday it plans to invest $922 million in added wind-power capacity, equaling as much renewable energy as its customers use.
“If the project is approved, it will allow our customers to get 100 percent of their annual energy use from a clean, renewable and cost-effective source,” said Adam Wright, MidAmerican’s CEO. “This is, no doubt, historic.”
MidAmerican said it will be the first investor-owned electric utility nationally to meet the goal, which the Des Moines utility announced in 2016.
The latest wind investment, expected to be completed in late 2020, would enable the company to freeze consumer rates, possibly up to 15 years, MidAmerican said.
“With wind, we don’t need to buy fuel to make the energy,” Wright said. “This is a big reason why MidAmerican Energy’s rates are 37 percent below the national average.”
MidAmerican needs the Iowa Utilities Board approval before it can move forward with the project.
MidAmerican’s newest project would add 591 megawatts of wind generation.
With nearly 2,200 turbines, the company’s wind generation capacity is 4,400 megawatts. It has 27 wind farms across Iowa.
The utility declined to say where the new wind turbines would be located.
Some rural Iowa residents are opposed to wind farms, saying construction can damage farmland and the turbines disrupt rural living.
With its newest project, MidAmerican will have invested about $12.3 billion in wind generation in Iowa since 2004.
MidAmerican will receive about $10 billion in federal production tax credits for the investment, covering the capital costs needed to build the wind farms.
Even though the production tax credits are being phased out, MidAmerican said this newest project will qualify for the full amount of credits.
Wright said about half of the electricity MidAmerican generated last year came from wind, with the remainder of energy coming from natural gas, nuclear and coal-fired plants.
By 2021, MidAmerican Energy’s wind-energy capacity will equal customers’ energy needs.
Given that wind energy won’t always be available to cover demand, MidAmerican said it would still need to rely occasionally on traditional electricity plants for energy needs, but was unable to immediately estimate how much.
Gov. Kim Reynolds said MidAmerican Energy helps Iowa lead the nation with its share of wind energy.
Last year, Iowa received about 37 percent of its electric generation from wind, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Wind was second only to coal as an energy source for electricity.
Iowa’s reliance on coal for electricity has dropped from 76 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2017, the agency said.
MidAmerican said the newest project will create about 300 construction jobs and 28 permanent jobs to operate and maintain the wind turbines.
MidAmerican said it paid $19.6 million in Iowa property taxes on wind turbines last year.
The newest project will add close to $7 million more in Iowa property tax payments.
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