The Iowa Utilities Board Thursday voted 3-0 to approve a plan by MidAmerican Energy to build enough wind turbines to generate up to 1,001 megawatts of electricity in the state. NextEra Energy of Florida — which also owns wind turbines in the state — sought to block the proposal, saying it would give MidAmerican a dominant position in wind energy in the state.
Utilities Board lawyer David Lynch, says the board did not agree. Lynch says the board found “the market’s a lot bigger than even this project, there’s a lot more wind out there.” He says if the wind projects make sense they will happen. Lynch says since it will take a couple years for MidAmerican to get the project built, they will be required to give an update on the market situation so that no problem develops.
Lynch says the board doesn’t feel MidAmerican’s plans will keep others from setting up turbines. “The concern was that if it looked like these guys were gonna take everything that was available, then no one else would play. They would take their wind turbines and go home,” Lynch says. He says the board doesn’t see that as a real concern with the available capacity. Part of the agreement will put a hold on MidAmerican’s electricity rates for at least another three years.
Lynch says MidAmerican has not changed their base electric rates since 1997, and he says in return for various settlements, they have agreed to extend the rate freeze through 2013. Some 400 or so turbines would likely be needed to reach the amount of electricity called for in the plan. Lynch says MidAmerican has various proposals for wind farms in the works, and they would likely be a part of the project. The exact construction time for the project is not known.
Lynch says they have to get things in place by 2001 and he says MidAmerican has said it would like to do things evenly, maybe 300 megawatts one year, 300 the next and so on. But he says if MidAmerican is able to find bargains on wind turbines, they could put all of them in next year.
MidAmerican already produces around 1,350 megawatts of wind power, so Lynch says this would increase their capacity by about 40%. Iowa is the second largest wind energy producer behind Texas.