Monday, May 09, 2016

Iowa Wind Boom Highlights Transformation in Midwest

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, the nation's longest-serving governor, signed off on the nation's first renewable portfolio standard during his first year in office in 1983. Today, the state gets 31 percent of its energy from wind power -- an amount that will surpass 40 percent by 2020. (Photo Credit: Gov. Terry Branstad) Click to Enlarge.
The U.S. power grid is undergoing an extreme makeover from the hulking power plants that generate most of the electricity all the way down to tiny meters attached to millions of homes.  And the nation's midsection is no exception.

From new, sprawling wind farms to thousands of rooftop solar arrays and miles of new high-voltage transmission lines needed to help keep the lights on, the evolution of the Midwest electric system was the focus of an all-day meeting Friday in Des Moines, Iowa.

The gathering was one of several regional meetings hosted by the Department of Energy this year to take comments on the agency's latest Quadrennial Energy Review -- an end-to-end analysis of the grid, which is undergoing the most significant transformation in decades.  DOE hosts additional regional meetings today in Austin, Texas, and in Los Angeles tomorrow.

One of the primary agents for current electric industry upheaval is an urgency to slash carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fueled power plants that for decades have been the workhorse of the Midwest power fleet.

Across the Midwest, and especially in Iowa, coal is increasingly being replaced with cleaner fuels, mostly natural gas and wind.

Just last month, Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy Co. announced plans for a 2,000-megawatt Wind XI project. It will be the state's largest economic development project, representing a $3.6 billion investment.

After the project is complete in 2019, Iowa will get more than 40 percent of its electricity from wind.

Gov. Terry Branstad has seen the wind boom up close.  The Republican signed the first state renewable portfolio standard during his first stint as governor in 1983.  By the time Wind XI is complete in 2019, the state will have almost 10,000 MW of wind generation.

"We've come a long way in the last 33 years, and we're not done," he said.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz underscored how the transformation to clean energy has rippled far beyond the electric grid.

"This move to clean energy in Iowa has been very strongly coupled with economic development," he said.

'A proactive shift'
The wind build-out has translated into millions of dollars in tax payments, income for farmers who host turbines on their land and jobs for more than 7,000 people employed in wind component manufacturing.

It has also helped attract more than $12 billion in investment to a state economy dominated by agriculture, including massive investments by technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft -- all of which have expanded data centers in the state to take advantage of cheap, clean wind energy.

Read more at Iowa Wind Boom Highlights Transformation in Midwest

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