Many of the top players in the wind energy industry from around the world are gathered in Iowa this week.
Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, says Des Moines was selected as the site for the industry’s largest conference because Iowa recently became the first state to generate at least 20 percent of its electricity from wind power.
“The American Wind Energy Association really wants to showcase Iowa’s success and Iowa as an example of what the nation would look like, in terms of job creation and enhanced economic development potential, if we can get the entire nation to 20% of our electric generation portfolio coming from the wind energy industry,” Prior said.
Iowa currently has more than 2,500 wind turbines creating over 4,000 megawatts of electricity. Projects that are underway are expected to boost that energy output to 5,000 megawatts by the end of 2012. Prior says one of the biggest challenges facing the wind industry involves transmitting the energy from where it’s generated to where it can be used.
“The transmission grid in the United States, as a whole, has not seen really significant upgrades in 50 years,” Prior said. “We’re going to have to modernize the electrical transmission grid one way or another.” He notes several large transmission projects are already planned or are under construction.
Another critical issue to continued growth, according to Prior, is the extension of a federal production tax credit for the wind energy industry. The credit is set to expire in December 2012. Prior says all forms of energy production are given tax credits, but some industries enjoy better terms.
“The advantage that the older carbon-based forms of generation have is they’re subsidized through the tax code,” Prior said. “Their subsidies don’t come up for consideration and renewal because they’ve been in the tax code, in some cases, for 90 years.”
The American Wind Energy Association reports the industry is on track to reach a goal of 20% of the country’s electricity coming from wind by the year 2030. In order to reach that goal, the industry will need to install an additional 60,000 wind turbines over the next 18 years.