Environment

Largest wind energy project in history is underway

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Wind mills during bright summer day

Image: Shutterstock/Elnur

The nation’s largest wind energy project in history has just received a green light to begin development in Iowa. The Wind XI Project, a $3.6 billion, 2,000-megawatt endeavor, is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2019. The project will utilize 1,000 wind turbines and is likely to generate enough electricity to power around 800,000 homes once completed. Although the location of the turbines is still being determined, the Iowa Utilities Board approved a proposal from MidAmerican which envisions Iowa as a future 100% renewable energy state. By 2020, MidAmerican anticipates easily meeting at least 85% of their customers’ power needs with wind.

Why is it so exciting?

Bill Fehrmann, MidAmerican’s President and CEO, spoke about the project recently, stating, “Wind energy helps us keep prices stable and more affordable for customers, provides jobs and economic benefits for communities and the state, and contributes to a cleaner environment for everyone.” A more sustainable power source than fossil fuels, wind turbines do not pollute the air while working. Due to the dropping of wind energy costs by 90% in roughly three decades, the United States Department of Energy has announced that technology and policy are now hand in hand for a full movement forward on wind.

Since the Iowa Utilities Board approved MidAmerican’s request by September 2016, they will be able to take advantage of federal production tax credits toward new wind project construction. MidAmerican’s website states that Wind XI will “generate an average of approximately $12.5 million per year in property tax payments, $18 million per year in landowner payments, and $48 million per year in state and local expenditures associated with the project.”

A clear path presents itself for others to follow

According to Bruce Nilles, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign’s senior director,

“This is an amazing example of how the unstoppable transition towards a 100% clean energy economy is moving faster than many expected. This is a landmark moment not only for the burgeoning wind energy industry in Iowa, a state which already runs on more than one-third wind energy and employs thousands of hard-working Iowans, but for the entire nation, as the largest wind project ever approved in the country. Iowa and MidAmerican’s rapid transition from dirty coal to affordable and renewable wind energy offers a clear path for utilities nationwide to make major strides towards 100% clean energy in a way that provides family-supporting jobs and without rate increases. This also represents a huge leap forward for one of Warren Buffett’s three utilities and is a model for how his other two can quickly follow suit, particularly Pacificorp, which operates the largest coal fleet in the West. We still have tremendous work to ensure that this transition keeps moving full speed ahead, but one thing is certain: with announcements like the one today, we aren’t ever going back to dirty fossil fuels.”

That is an aspiration we can all hope to achieve in the coming years as well.

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at: http://lakesedge.wix.com/lakesidewriting

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