Iowa Ranks Second in the Nation in Wind Energy
by Charles Lemos, Sat Mar 06, 2010 at 12:59:46 PM EST
A new study by the Iowa Policy Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Iowa City, finds that energy derived from wind accounts for up to 20 percent of Iowa's total electricity production, and is helping to keep the state's power costs among the lowest in the nation.
From the Center for Rural Affairs:
Authors of the study said it debunks arguments that alternative energy and other measures to combat climate change are too expensive. The study was conducted by the Iowa Policy Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Iowa City.
"Those people who tell us we can't do anything about global climate change because it will be too expensive are wrong, Iowa is proving it wrong," said David Osterberg, an Iowa Policy Project researcher and one of the authors of the study.
The study found that wind produced 3,670 megawatts of electricity in the state. If that power were used solely within the state it would produce enough electricity to power 940,000 homes roughly three-quarters of the state's homes.
The study noted that MidAmerican Energy is one of the most aggressive utility companies in the nation on wind energy, securing approval in December to install another 1,001 megawatts of production.
Iowa continues to rank second to Texas in wind production in the United States, the study found.
The authors pointed to research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing that roughly three-quarters of Iowa has high enough wind at 80 meters above the ground to produce wind energy.
"Thus, even as Iowa is leading the way in harnessing wind energy, there is significant room to increase our use of the wind's renewable power," the study said.
"America need not fear taking strong steps to address climate change, new estimates of Iowa wind production and production potential show this," said Teresa Galluzzo, another author of the study.
Coal-fired plants produce about 75 percent of the state's electricity, and there is one nuclear plant in the state.
In examining electricity costs, the study found that Iowans paid about 6 cents per kilowatt hour in 1998. That climbed to 7 cents per kilowatt hour by 2008. Over the same time period, national average electricity costs went from 7 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 10 cents.
"Amidst Iowa's massive expansion of wind power, our average electricity prices have remained below the national average and in fact have not increased as quickly as the national average price in the last four years," the study said.
The study said MidAmerican is the national leader in wind generation by rate-regulated utilities, with 1,393 megawatts either in operation or under construction. That's in addition to the 1,001 megawatts of capacity approved in December. The study said Iowa is the seventh windiest state in the nation.
The MidAmerican Energy Company is the largest utility in Iowa providing service to more than 723,000 electric customers and more than 702,000 natural gas customers in a 10,600 square-mile area from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois. The largest communities served by MidAmerican are Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Waterloo, Iowa City and Council Bluffs, Iowa; the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois; and Sioux Falls, S.D. As year end 2009, MidAmerican was capable of generating nearly 7,200 megawatts: approximately 50 percent fueled by coal; 21 percent natural gas and oil; 10 percent nuclear; 19 percent wind, hydroelectric and biomass; and less than 1 percent by other nonrenewable sources.
While wind energy sector has been growing rapidly in the United States - it grew by 39 percent in 2009 - wind still accounts for less than 5 percent of overall US energy production. What's remarkable about the Iowa report is that Iowa is quietly achieving European levels of alternative energy production. Denmark, one of the world leader's in wind energy, derives 25 percent of its energy needs from wind.