Iowa Utility Proposes $3.9 Billion Renewable Energy Project

A subsidiary of billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy has announced it plans to invest another $3.9 billion into renewable energy in Iowa, with a project that would add more than 2 GW of wind power to the state.

Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy on Jan. 19 said the Wind PRIME project also includes solar power generation, and exploration of what the utility called new technologies, which could include small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). The company said the project will advance MidAmerican’s transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. MidAmerican said construction of the project, after approval from state regulators, could begin as soon as 2024.

Kelcey Brown, CEO and president of MidAmerican, in a statement said, “As MidAmerican continues to progress toward delivering 100% renewable energy to our customers, we are also preparing to meet an important milestone of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The Wind PRIME project will position us and our customers for a sustainable future, while ensuring we continue to deliver affordable and reliable energy.”

Iowa a Leader in Renewable Energy

A company release on Wednesday said Wind PRIME would continue MidAmerican’s development of renewable energy and advance Iowa’s position as a leader in the sector. The utility said it has invested about $14 billion in renewable energy projects across Iowa since 2004.

A report last year from the American Clean Power Association said Iowa’s use of renewable energy resources is the highest in the country. The group said nearly 58% of the state’s electricity is generated from renewable sources; Kansas is the next-highest state at just more than 43%.

“Iowa is a renewable energy leader, thanks in large part to MidAmerican Energy’s proven track record of clean energy commitments and investments that are a true competitive advantage for our state,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday.  

MidAmerican Energy serves 795,000 electricity customers in Iowa, Illinois, and South Dakota. The utility also has 774,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

MidAmerican officials said they estimate the Wind PRIME project will create more than 1,100 full-time jobs during the construction phase, and another 125 full-time positions for ongoing operations and maintenance. The project will be MidAmerican’s 13th renewable energy power generation development. The company said the project’s name comes from what it called a prime time to embark on large-scale renewable energy development, and to reflect that while wind is the main component, the project also includes solar power along with looking at other clean energy technologies.

‘Whole New Level’ of Investment

“MidAmerican’s Wind PRIME is a commitment and investment on a whole new level, cementing Iowa’s clean energy leadership for many years to come,” Reynolds said. “Beyond that, though, the company’s commitment to study and pursue emerging clean energy technologies will help Iowa meet the growing demand for a sustainable economy that manages our carbon footprint.”

MidAmerican outlined the project in a filing Wednesday with the Iowa Utilities Board. Wind PRIME would add 2,042 MW of wind generation, and 50 MW of solar generation. The utility also proposed conducting feasibility studies focused on other clean energy technologies, including carbon capture, energy storage, and SMRs.

The filing said Wind PRIME would result in benefits for both its customers and the environment, noting:

  • Deliver 100% renewable energy to customers – In 2021, MidAmerican estimates that it delivered 88% renewable energy on an annual basis to customers across Iowa.  Combined with other MidAmerican projects, Wind PRIME would allow MidAmerican to provide renewable energy equal to its Iowa customers’ annual electricity usage.
  • Carbon reduction – MidAmerican said that while thermal generation will remain part of its generation portfolio to ensure reliability for customers, the completion of Wind PRIME, along with existing non-carbon resources, is projected to result in an overall reduction of CO2 by nearly 14 million metric tons, or about 75%, from 2005 levels.
  • Striving to reach net zero – Wind PRIME also proposes the study of emerging technologies, including energy storage, carbon capture, and SMRs, which would help expand MidAmerican’s ability to meet customer demand for renewable power generation as well as lower-carbon and non-carbon generation.

MidAmerican said the project will provide an average of more than $24 million annually in local property tax payments on wind turbines and solar facilities, as well as more than $21 million in yearly landowner easement payments.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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