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Iowa is a leading U.S. state in wind power generation with 27.4% of the state's electricity generation coming from wind in 2013. At the end of 2013, wind power in Iowa had 5,137 megawatts (MW) of capacity, third only to Texas and California.
Nearly $10 billion has been invested in Iowa's wind power projects and manufacturing facilities.
In addition to federal programs, the state of Iowa encourages development of renewable electricity sources through a 1 cent per kilowatt hour tax credit. Also, generation equipment and facilities receive property tax breaks, and generation equipment is exempt from sales tax.
The development of wind power in Iowa began with the enactment in 1983 of a state law that required investor-owned utilities in the state to buy a total of 105 MW of power from wind generated electricity, one of first renewable electricity portfolio standards. This provided assurance to those building wind power installations that there would be a market for the electricity they produced.
Installed wind power capacity in Iowa grew quickly in 2008 and 2009. In their end of year report for 2009, the American Wind Energy Association reported that the installed wind power capacity in Iowa was 3670 MW. Only Texas and California have higher amounts of installed wind power capacity. Wind power installations increased by 879 MW from a year earlier. In the prior year, 2008, over 1500 MW of wind power generation was installed. Also in 2008, Iowa overtook the historical leader in wind power, California.
In 2010 and in 2009, Iowa led the U.S. in the percentage of electrical power generated by wind, at 15.4 percent and 14.2 percent. This was up from 7.7 percent in 2008, as there was a large increase in the installed capacity in 2008. Some of the wind power generated electricity is sold to utility companies in nearby states, such as Wisconsin, and Illinois.
Wind farms are most prevalent in the north and west portion of Iowa. Wind maps show the winds in these areas to be stronger on average, making them better suited for the development of wind energy. Average wind speeds are not consistent from month to month. Wind maps show wind speeds are on average strongest from November through April, peaking in March. August is the month with the weakest average wind speeds. On a daily cycle, there is a slight rise in average wind speeds in the afternoon, from 1 to 6 p.m. Estimates by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) indicate Iowa has potentially 570,700 Megawatts of wind power using large turbines mounted on 80 meter towers. Iowa ranks seventh in the country in terms of wind energy generation potential due to the strong average wind speeds in the midsection of the U.S. The Iowa Environmental Mesonet, with over 450 stations, is a resource available to monitor current weather and wind conditions and provide data for modelling and predicting wind power.
The average capacity factor of Iowa wind farms has been estimated as 33.3% by a wind industry consultant. Production numbers for 2013, when wind capacity remained almost constant, were actually slightly better, showing a capacity factor over 34 percent. Due to these better wind conditions, Iowa generated more electricity from wind power in 2013 than California, even though it had less wind power capacity installed.
Several of the newer projects are the large 440 MW Rolling Hills project near Massena, the Elk Wind Farm near Greeley, and Pocahontas Prairie project northeast of Pomeroy. All were constructed in 2011, although the Pocahontas Prairie project wasn't online until early 2012.
According to the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, lack of transmission line capacity is beginning to restrict further growth of wind farms in the state. A report from the NREL acknowledges that this is a major hurdle to increased wind power development in the U.S. A high voltage DC line that would transmit power from near Sioux City to the Chicago area has been proposed.
MidAmerican Energy has started construction on five projects in Iowa totaling over 1,000 MW of capacity. The projects, expected to be completed by the end of 2015, are in O'Brien, Marshall, Webster, Grundy, and Madison counties. This will involve construction of 448 wind turbines manufactured by Siemens. At a cost of some 1.9 billion dollars, this will be Iowa's largest economic development project to date. The largest project, the Highland project in O'Brien county, will have 500 MW of capacity, making it Iowa's largest.
A new transmission line is being built to transmit some of the power from the Highland project to the Spencer and Iowa Great Lakes area. Additionally, power will be transmitted by an existing 345 kilovolt line running from south of Sioux City to Lakefield, Minnesota.
A number of companies involved in the windpower industry have office or manufacturing facilities in Iowa. Blades for wind turbines are manufactured in Newton by TPI Composites and in Fort Madison by Siemens. Turbines are manufactured in West Branch by Acciona. Towers are also manufactured in Newton by Trinity Structural Towers. Companies manufacturing other parts for wind turbines are located in Iowa as well.
In late September 2007, Siemens Power Generation opened its new wind turbine blade factory in Fort Madison, on the banks of the Mississippi River. The factory can produce more than 2000 blades annually. A plant expansion in 2008 brought the facility up to nearly 600,000 square feet, up from 310,000. The facility manufactures 148-foot (45 m)-long, 12-ton blades for the company's 2.3-MW wind turbines installed in the United States.
The Iowa Office of Energy Independence (OEI) is tasked with determining policy and setting goals towards renewable energy production. The office seeks to coordinate efforts between industry, community leaders, state and local government, and educational institutions to achieve energy policy goals.
The following is a list of some of the wind projects in Iowa.
The Spirit, Endeavor, Buena Vista, Lost Lakes, and Crosswind Energy wind farms are all located upon the Coteau des Prairies, a slightly elevated area that results in the windiest locations in Minnesota and Iowa. Coteau des Prairies is sometimes referred to as Buffalo Ridge, which is actually a specific ridge within the area, mostly in Minnesota.
Power from the Iowa Lakes Superior and Iowa Lakes Lakota projects is used by ethanol fuel plants in their respective communities. This marks the first use of wind power being used to supply energy to produce another renewable energy source.
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