MidAmerican to Install 593 MW New Wind in Iowa

According to recent announcements, MidAmerican Energy Co. has ordered 258 Siemens SWT-2.3-101 wind turbines for its Laurel, Rolling Hills and Pomeroy wind developments in Iowa. The projects will have a total installed capacity of 593 megawatts at the expected completion date in early 2012. Iowa’s proportion of wind generation has been growing since the state enacted the nation’s first renewable energy standard in 1983, thanks to the fervent efforts of then-state representative David Osterberg (now head of Iowa Policy Project) and many allies.

In addition to the wind turbine order, Siemens signed a long-term service contract with MidAmerican Energy for its natural gas-fueled, combined-cycle Greater Des Moines Energy Center.

President and CEO of Siemens Energy, Randy Zwirn, commented:

Orders of this magnitude create the environment for continued investment in the infrastructure America needs to meet the strong demand for clean energy right where it’s used.

Siemens Energy recently opened a Hutchinson, Kansas wind turbine nacelle assembly facility, and Iowa has opened wind turbine component factories in a number of communities in recent years due to the state’s aggressive recruitment of renewable energy investment.

This is all good news, but the hard truth is that Iowa’s greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption are still increasing. Iowa’s nameplate capacity was 72% coal in 1990 and net generation was nearly 86% coal. According to 2009 Energy Information Administration numbers, Iowa installed capacity was 48% coal and net generation was 72% coal, so there’s been a big drop there.

However, the net generation by Iowa coal plants in 2009 (37,351,346 MW, as compared to 25,741,941 MW in 1990) was 24% higher than the total Iowa electric power industry generation in 1990 (30,044,506 MW). You have to run pretty fast just to stay in the same place in this game. The proportions are meaningless to net CO2 as long as we keep pumping out more coal-fired electricity every year.

Bottom line: based on a direct comparison of coal net generation numbers for the total electric power industry, Iowa was producing 45% more coal-fired electricity in 2009 than it was in 1990. Certainly the numbers would be much higher if there hadn’t been so much effort made to expand renewables (and cost-effectively, I might add – I’ve been reading the filings). But it’s going to take a much bigger effort to rein in the growth of coal combustion and greenhouse gas emissions.

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