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Iowa leads in wind

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | MAY 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa has worked its way from No. 7 to No. 1 in wind energy.

By the end of 2014, Iowa produced 28.5 percent of its electricity from wind energy, the highest in the country.

That number is expected to increase to more than 30 percent by the end of this year.

“[The amount of energy produced] is comparable with some of the best countries in the world, like Denmark,” said University of Iowa Provost P. Barry Butler, the Iowa Wind principal investigator.

Currently, the state has a grant from the National Science Foundation covering three different parts of renewable energy, one of which is wind energy.

“We get money from the National Science Foundation every year for five years,” Butler said. “It’s about $1 million a year.”

The money has been used to fund projects at Kirkwood Community College and to purchase equipment such as wind towers.

Sri Sritharan, an engineering professor at Iowa State University and associate head for graduate study and research, credits Iowa’s success with wind energy to the state’s ability to produce all three components to generate it.

“Iowa was the first to have companies in state to produce all three components for wind energy — the tower, the turbine itself, and the blade,” Sritharan said. “In terms of purchasing and shipping, that’s going to be attractive.”

Sritharan said that all these parts being locally manufactured helps with both production and installation of wind generators, especially since some of the parts are costly to transport.

The manufacturing of the wind generators that goes on statewide also provides roughly 6,000 Iowans with employment.

A few other reasons Iowa is the leading state in wind manufacturing, said Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry, is because of Iowa’s location, transportation, and low wages.

“There are a lot of wind farms in Iowa, a well-educated workforce, and the cost of living isn’t so high,” said Carberry, who is heavily involved in environmental initiatives. “It’s a good place to manufacture.”

Mike Prior, the executive director for the Iowa Wind Energy Association, said wind in Iowa could be the next great “cash crop.”

“We have an opportunity because we have a really great wind source,” he said.

Carberry also noted that if one were to look at a map of wind speed, one would see that the wind comes to a peak in western Iowa.

“The faster the wind, the more electricity you can make,” he said.

In addition to an ideal location to produce wind energy, Prior said, Iowa has had very favorable policies to help encourage its production.

Some of those policies include tax incentives and favorable rulings from the Iowa Utilities Board.

“We’ve had very favorable legislators, good bipartisan support, and a forward-thinking governor,” Prior said. “We’ve had multiple governors over the last decade or so that have been very, very pro-wind.”

Bipartisan support in regard to wind energy has allowed Iowa to work its way up on the list for states with the most wind potential.

“We’ve made a very concentrated effort to pursue wind,” Carberry said. “In wind potential, we were seventh, but now we’re No. 1 because we had the foresight. You don’t often see Democrats and Republicans working together on anything, but we worked together on wind.”


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