Wind energy: Good for Iowa, good for America

MidAmerican Energy Co. announced Wednesday it plans to invest $1.9 billion to add 656 wind turbines in Iowa.

Iowa sits on no deposits of oil, natural gas or coal, but we were reminded last week of the fact the state is positioned well as a player in the energy game nonetheless.

On Wednesday, Gov. Terry Branstad and officials of MidAmerican Energy Co. announced plans for the largest economic development investment in state history: A $1.9 billion wind-energy project involving the addition of 656 new wind turbines.

According to leaders, the project will generate as much as 1,050 megawatts of power in the state by 2015, create 48 permanent jobs and 460 construction jobs over two years, provide $360 million in additional property tax revenue over the next 30 years, produce $3.2 million in annual payments to landowners and reduce future electricity rates for MidAmerican customers by up to $10 million per year by 2017.

We applaud MidAmerican for this project. Any way you examine the company announcement, it’s a big winner for our state. Also, it continues an impressive string of major capital investment announcements in Iowa totaling in the billions of dollars over the last six months.

The importance to Iowa of the wind-energy industry continues to grow. Consider a handful of statistics, courtesy of the Iowa Wind Energy Association:

– In 2012, Iowa produced about 25 percent of all the electricity generated in the state from wind turbines, ranking the state first in the nation for total generation from wind energy (Iowa also became the first state in the nation to exceed 20 percent of total generation from wind energy).

– At 5,137 megawatts, the state ranks third in the nation for installed wind capacity. Iowa’s wind generators can produce enough power to provide electricity to more than one 1.1 million average-sized homes.

– The wind-energy industry employs between 6,000 and 7,000 people in the state, ranking Iowa first in the nation in wind-energy employment.

Because wind is in inexhaustible supply and some 75 percent of Iowa is considered suitable for wind-energy development with an estimated total resource of 570,000 megawatts of electricity, we haven’t scratched the surface of the potential for this industry in our state.

In the larger picture, wind energy is good for America. For the long-term economic, strategic and security interests of the nation, we support a diverse portfolio of energy options, including oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable sources such as wind and biofuels like biodiesel and ethanol. It makes no sense for the country to put all of its energy eggs into one or two baskets, so to speak. For those reasons, the decision by Congress in January to extend tax credits for the wind and biofuels industries was money well spent.

As the importance of renewable energy grows, Iowa’s importance as a leader in the field (Iowa also ranks first for ethanol production and third for biodiesel production) grows.

That’s something all of us who live and work in this state should be excited about.