Even utility (Iowa’s largest) eyes 100% goal

In Ecowatch, May 2017

Iowa is already a wind energy superstar, and now, the state’s largest utility is looking to completely transition to renewable energy sources.

Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy, owned by Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, recently invested $3.6 billion for its 2,000 megawatt Wind XI project, that’s hailed as “the largest economic development project in Iowa’s history” as well as the nation’s largest wind energy project.

The Des Moines Register reports that MidAmerican will install 1,000 wind turbines over the next few years on top of the 2,020 turbines the company has already built around the state.

The feat would bring the utility’s share of energy from renewable sources from 55 percent to 89 percent.

“We will be able to virtually serve 89 percent of our customers’ needs with an energy resource that requires no fuel,” MidAmerican CEO Bill Fehrman told the publication.

The initiative would involve no rate increases for customers—MidAmerican has agreed to freeze rates until at least 2029, and “a lot of that is because of the wind investment,” Fehrman said.

“The beauty of wind is there’s no fuel costs,” he said.

MidAmerican’s rates have increased only once since 1998 and are the ninth-lowest nationally, Fehrman said. “There’s not another utility in the country—gas, water, cable, electric—that’s held rates steady for 12, 13 years.”

According to Fehrman, the company’s goal is to eventually reach 100 percent renewables, which would require at least another $2 billion and 550 turbines.

“It would set a new precedent for the U.S.,” Daniel Shurey, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told the Register. “It will require a company that really knows what it’s doing.”

“It will be challenging for them to provide security of supply, and that’s not something MidAmerican will take lightly,” Shurey said.

The Wind XI project, which the Iowa Utilities Board approved in August, is expected to power 800,000 homes once completed by the end of 2019.

Iowa, one of the top U.S. states in wind power generation, already runs on more than one-third wind energy.