Yesterday, the state of Iowa and MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest almost $2 billion—yes, billion with a b—in wind power.
The investment represents 1,050 megawatts of generating capacity across 656 wind turbines. This will be a 50% increase in the number of wind turbines that the company has deployed in the state of Iowa.
Furthermore, it will represent a nearly 20% increase in the rated generating capacity of wind power in the state. At the end of 2012, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, the state had 5,137 megawatts of installed generating capacity. In practice, this has worked out to about 25% of the state’s total power need. With the new investment by MidAmerican, the share of wind power will grow to approximately 30% of the state’s total power need. Hell yeah!
If my simple “back of a napkin” math is correct, the state of Iowa would need approximately 20,000 megawatts of wind power to be completely renewable. With one quarter of that already deployed and MidAmerican’s plans in the pipe, the state would need to deploy approximately 14,000 megawatts of wind power to reach a goal of “100% wind powered.” At approximately $2 billion per 1,000 megawatts—using the recently announced plans by MidAmerican—it would require an investment of $28 billion dollars. While that sounds like a lot of money—and it is—think of what it represents: an entire U.S. state would be powered by the wind. Ecotopia here I come!
But wait, according to the American Wind Energy Association fact sheet for the state of Iowa there were over 10,000 megawatts of projects “in cue” at the end of the third quarter of 2012. I do not know what “in cue” really means, but totaling up installed capacity with that under construction and “in cue” gets to a total of more than 15,000 megawatts of installed capacity in the future. This would represent approximately 75% of the state’s total power need.
I recognize that there is a heavy element of boosterism in these fact sheets and announcements, but nothing seems out of the realm of the possible. This is an industry that is using mature technology and exploiting an existing industrial base to deploy a product into a market with a stable demand.
Beyond the direct economic impact of siting turbines, many of the components for wind turbines are built in the state of Iowa. If MidAmerican’s trends hold true the turbines are likely to come from either GE or Siemens. Both of these companies have tower manufacturing in state and Siemens has a plant that produces blades in state. I look forward to seeing these components rolling down I-80 on flatbeds!
The surprising thing from the announcement yesterday was that the deployment of wind power will actually stabilize long term rates for MidAmerican customers. Generally, these statements have spoken about the green aspects of deploying wind power and not the ability of renewables to create a more resilient future. So, wind power creates a more stable future and is cost competitive with traditional fossil fuel sources? Can I find a few more billion?
Most of the news that we read about the environment seems pretty negative lately, but this is good news.