Editorial: Energy plan will be beneficial for Iowa


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On Wednesday, Gov. Terry Branstad announced that MidAmerican Energy would invest $1.9 billion in Iowa’s wind-energy sector. The plan would add up to 656 new wind turbines that would produce around 1,050 megawatts of electricity each year.

The turbines are expected to be fully installed by the end of 2015. This development is not anticipated to have any net cost for customers of MidAmerican and should cut electric rates by $10 million yearly by 2017. It is also expected that this will result in more stable rates for customers.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board strongly supports this smart, efficient investment that will benefit Iowans both in the short and long terms.

At the end of 2012, wind turbines in Iowa produced 5,137 megawatts per kilowatt hour of electricity. A 2011 report by the American Wind Energy Association stated that Iowa has the wind resources to provide 44 times the entire state’s current electricity demands. The state’s maximum wind-generation capacity is 570,714 megawatts (with turbines at an elevation of 80 meters), ranking Iowa seventh in the nation for wind-energy resources. Based on these statistics, Iowa is utilizing around 1 percent of its total potential wind energy resources. There is enormous room for expansion, and MidAmerican is right to capitalize on it.

Wind energy provides between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs in Iowa, and ensuring that this sector continues to grow is vital to Iowa’s economy as energy sources diversify. At the event in which Branstad announced MidAmerican’s initiative, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said the project would create approximately 460 temporary construction jobs over the next two years and 48 permanent jobs. This will certainly aid Iowa’s unemployment rate, which was 4.9 percent as of March.

Growing wind production in Iowa also promises to bring more jobs for manufacturing wind turbines and further growth in this expanding industry. A report from Iowa Economic Development noted that Iowa’s geography and infrastructure make the state a prime location for constructing wind turbines.

“The network of interstate highways, recent rail infrastructure investments and improvements, and barge routes combine to provide unequaled and competitive transportation choices and access to markets,” the report read.

According to an American Wind Energy Association report, wind turbines in Iowa currently produce enough electricity for 1.1 million homes.

TradeWind Energy also reported that wind energy can help rural communities by “providing steady income through lease or royalty payments to farmers and other landowners, payments to counties in the form of taxes or voluntary contributions, local jobs and spending during construction, and ongoing jobs and local spending throughout project operations.”

At first glance, it may seem problematic that wind turbines often occupy farmland. However, the crop losses are extremely minimal. TradeWind Energy reported that a utility-scale wind plant would occupy approximately 50 acres of land, but turbines, access roads, and other equipment will only take up 1 to 2 percent of that area, leaving the remaining land open for farming purposes.

Considering the massive economic potential for increasing wind production in Iowa, MidAmerican’s plan promises to be extremely beneficial for development in state and local economies.

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