Friday, April 21, 2006

MidAmerican to boost wind energy

MidAmerican to boost wind energy
Published: 04/21/2006 09:14 AM

By: Associated Press - Associated Press

DES MOINES, IA - Iowa's largest energy company plans to double its wind-generated electricity and has state approval to eventually nearly triple its output.

MidAmerican Energy Company, which accounted for most of Iowa's new wind capacity last year, received approval from the Iowa Utilities Board this week to add 545 megawatts of wind energy.

MidAmerican operates 360.5 megawatts of wind energy facilities in northern Iowa, and officials say the company will at least double that number in the coming years.

The state approved the plan on the condition that MidAmerican not raise its electricity rates in Iowa until 2010.

Iowa has more than 830 megawatts of wind energy capacity, ranking it third in the country behind California and Texas, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

In 2003, Gov. Tom Vilsack issued a challenge for Iowa to have 1,000 egawatts of renewable energy in Iowa by 2010. MidAmerican would operate more than 1,000 megawatts of wind, biomass and hydroelectric energy in Iowa if it adds the maximum 545 megawatts.

Vilsack said the expansion plan will have "a huge impact" on the state's energy industry.

A 545-megawatt wind project would result in the avoidance of up to 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually -- the equivalent of eliminating 279,000 vehicles, company officials said.

"We are again adding renewable energy ... in a way that makes sense for our customers, our company and the state," said Todd Raba, president of MidAmerican Energy.

Most of MidAmerican's electricity is generated by burning coal. But last year, the company completed a $386 million, 257-turbine project in two northern Iowa sites, increasing its total generation from renewable sources to 9 percent. Iowa law requires at least 2 percent come from renewable sources.

This year, the company plans to complete a 99-megawatt expansion in Carroll and Crawford counties in west central Iowa. MidAmerican officials said the location of other projects and the amount the company will invest has not been determined.

MidAmerican is based in Des Moines and provides electricity to 706,000 customers and natural gas to 687,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota.