MidAmerica announces new Iowa wind energy plants

The wind turbines will generate more than 593 megawatts of wind energy, or enough to power 190,000 homes, the companies said. They’ll be installed in wind farm plants in Cass, Adams, Marshall, Calhoun and Adair counties next year.

Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, called the deal "significant" in that it would increase Iowa’s production capacity of 3,760 megawatts by almost 16 percent.

Congress’ approval of a one-year investment tax credit and a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that allows the cost of building wind energy transmission lines to be shared by customers will allow foster wind energy development in Iowa, Prior predicted.

"It suddenly takes a huge cost off of the wind power developer and will facilitate the transmission of wind energy to the north, east, south and west to market Iowa as a producer location," he said.

Iowa ranks first in the percentage of its electricity generated by the wind power at 14.2 percent, according to the latest data from the American Wind Energy Association.

Sarah Howell, a spokeswoman for the national group, said the industry had its slowest growth since 2007 during the third quarter of this year, in part because of what she described as a lack of national wind energy policy. "So we’re installing half of what they were in Europe and only a third of what was done in China," Howell said.

But Howell said the industry is still seeing growth among some companies, such as Siemens, which just opened plants in Hutchinson, Kan., and added people and facilities in Boulder, Colo. Other companies have expanded or opened plants in Little Rock, Ark., and Amarillo, Texas, she added. "So at the same time, we still have companies opening up and manufacturing in the U.S.," Howell said.

Monika Wood, a spokeswoman for Germany-based Siemens, noted that the deal with MidAmerican was struck before the approval of the federal tax credit and the cost sharing of transmission line construction. "Globally, it’s our largest onshore wind power order," Wood said.

Bill Fehrman, MidAmerican Energy President, said in a new release that the wind farm projects provide Iowa with numerous benefits, including capital investment, construction jobs, long-term maintenance jobs and annual payments to landowners and property tax revenue.

"The wind farm projects make good economic sense for Iowa and our customers as the state continues to benefit from the construction of additional renewable energy generating capacity," Fehrman said.

The wind turbines ordered by MidAmerican will be built at plants in Fort Madison, Iowa and in Hutchinson, Kan., said Rene Umlauft, chief executive for Siemens Renewable Energy Division.

MidAmerican also announced agreement deal with RPM Access to buy the company’s wind farm near Laurelwa, where 52 of the Siemens wind turbines will go.