By Mitchell Schmidt
The Iowa Utilities Board has given MidAmerican Energy the green light for the utility's plans for a $3.6 billion wind energy investment, the largest renewable energy project in the state.
The state board on Friday gave final approval for the utility's Wind XI farm.
The project -- first announced in April -- is part of Des Moines-based MidAmerican's goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy for Iowa customers.
"We are finalizing plans to begin construction of the 1,000 wind turbines, with completion expected by the end of 2019," MidAmerican spokeswoman Ashton Hockman said in an email Monday. "Wind XI will add up to 2,000 megawatts of wind generation in Iowa and is the largest wind project MidAmerican Energy has ever undertaken."
Hockman said Wind XI will include multiple sites across Iowa, but exact locations are still being finalized. Those sites will be brought into service over a three-year period, from 2017 through 2029, she added.
The entire cost of the project planned to be recouped through federal production tax credits over 10 years, so the company is not seeking financial assistance from the state. Nor will customer rates be increased, according to MidAmerican officials.
"The early approval helps ensure MidAmerican can take full advantage of the recently extended federal wind production tax credit -- a policy we support," said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director with Iowa Environment Council, in a prepared statement.
In July, Alliant Energy officials announced that utility's plans for a $1 billion wind project that will add 500 megawatts to Iowa's renewable energy infrastructure.
Alliant officials have said the large majority of funds are planned for an expansion of the utility's Whispering Willow Wind Farm in Franklin County.
Alliant, which is taking advantage of production tax credits, still needs final approval of the project from the Iowa Utilities Board.
Wind energy can lead to lower electricity rates for consumers, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Iowa ranked second last year among all states in net electricity generation from wind, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Wind power proponents have said such projects further position Iowa as a leader in renewable energy efforts.
More than 31 percent of Iowa's total electricity generation came from wind, a larger share than any other state, according to the energy administration.
(c)2016 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)