Huge Iowa Wind Farm Gets Go-Ahead

MidAmerican Energy’s Wind XI project in Iowa, which will comprise up to 2 GW of total generation, has received approval from state regulators to proceed with construction, the company said.

The $3.6 billion project will place 1,000 turbines at several sites still to be finalized. Plans were announced in April 2016, and the Iowa Utilities Board on Aug. 29 gave approval to proceed. The company is not asking for a rate increase or assistance from the state to pay for it.

“This is an exciting day for our customers, the state of Iowa and MidAmerican Energy,” said Bill Fehrman, the firm’s president and CEO, in a statement. “We thank the board for its support and for moving quickly to deliver this ruling.”

The first turbines will be erected next year, with the project expected to be fully online in 2019. MidAmerican said the project will result in $1.2 billion in landowner easement and property tax payments over the next 40 years in addition to “thousands of jobs.”

Iowa has become a center of wind energy, with 6,212 MW of capacity as of February 2016, ranking it second in the nation, behind Texas, according to Department of Energy data.

State and local environmental groups hailed the decision.

“The economic, environmental and community benefits derived from wind energy are clear and compelling in Iowa,” said Josh Mandelbaum, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We look forward to working with MidAmerican and the Utilities Board to help the state fully realize those benefits as the project gets underway, and to helping advance other wind, solar and energy efficiency projects that will accelerate Iowa’s transition to clean energy.”

Wind XI will be the largest wind farm in the U.S. when complete and one of the largest in the world. By itself it will increase Iowa’s installed wind capacity by about a third.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).