Iowa innovation and leadership moving wind energy toward next stage of transmission frontier

Iowa’s leadership in wind power continues to gain momentum as the state looks to ramp up efforts to export wind energy beyond its state lines – all while moving toward exceeding national goals of the amount of energy produced from wind. With 14 percent of Iowa’s in-state energy produced by wind energy, the state is looking to make significant strides in transmission infrastructure policy as the industry matures in the United States.

As a result of Iowa’s efforts, regions looking to increase their renewable energy portfolios, like the Tennessee Valley Authority and WE Energies of Milwaukee, can tap into wind energy from Iowa to meet their renewable energy standards. The next frontier will be efficient transmission of wind power across multiple state lines to East Coast population centers that need wind power most.

"As wind energy matures from a revolutionary idea into a dependable and pivotal resource for our nation, it only makes sense to ensure its availability where energy demand is greatest," said Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. "In the last five years, eight wind manufactures have relocated to Iowa, further demonstrating our state’s strength in the industry.

"TPI Composite’s plan for an additional facility in Sioux City is the most recent example of increased momentum and continued growth of Iowa’s wind manufacturing capacity," Culver added.

In fact, Iowa leads the nation in wind industry manufacturing facilities and workers employed in wind industry manufacturing, and the state comes in second in the nation in wind industry construction and operations management jobs. More jobs are on the horizon, with approximately 14,569 more megawatts of generating capacity projects planned.

In keeping with the world’s growing demand for wind power, Iowa has unveiled a new, aggressive plan to generate 50 percent of its electricity from wind, using 20 percent within state lines and exporting the additional 30 percent to other states. To meet the infrastructure demands of this goal, Iowa’s government, economic development department and business leaders have focused efforts to attract wind turbine production companies and the accompanying logistics support to the state.

The results include up to 10,000 jobs in the wind energy sector, supported in 2009 with annual property tax payments by wind project owners of $16.5 million, and annual land lease payments of $11 million.

Iowa’s educational system has also ramped up to meet the demand for skilled workers. The first and only two-year training program in wind energy and turbine technology in the country is offered at Iowa Lakes Community College. The first-of-its-kind Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND) connects Iowa’s three Regents universities, seven of its community colleges, the state government, and the wind energy industry to offer options ranging from certifications to bachelor’s and master’s degrees that support wind energy companies and their research and training needs.

All of these efforts are building on the momentum from nearly three decades of pioneering efforts in wind energy policy. Iowa was one of the first states to enact a renewable energy standard by passing the Alternative Energy Production Law in 1983. The law requires investor-owned utilities to purchase a shared total of 105 MW of in-state renewable generating capacity and associated energy production.

Today, Iowa has a wealth of wind energy to sell. In 2009, Iowa produced more wind energy as a percentage of overall production than any other state and was second only to Texas in total amount of energy produced from wind, with 3,670 MW of installed capacity.

Iowa generated 14.2 percent of the state’s overall electricity from wind in 2009, far ahead of the nation’s figure of 1.8 percent. The U.S. Department of Energy established a national goal of generating 20 percent of the nation’s energy from wind by 2030 and Iowa is well on its way of exceeding that goal.

"Iowa’s standard for wind energy propelled the industry into the robust economy it is today and is helping to fuel future growth," said Bret Mills, director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED). "Consumers want more renewable energy sources, and Iowa leaders in the private and public sectors are making that happen."