Monday, 1 July 2013

Iowa blowing Nebraska away on wind power
11 May 2013

t's a touchy subject among Nebraskans invested in or watching the development of renewable sources of energy. Nebraska has more potential to turn wind into power, but Iowa's doing it to a vastly greater degree.

Last week, a unit of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha, said it plans to invest $1.9 billion to build wind farms in Iowa that would increase its wind generating capacity in the state by about half.

MidAmerican Energy Co., Iowa's largest utility, plans to build as much as 1,050 MWs of new wind power plants in the state, adding to about 2,285 MWs of projects that it already owns and operates. The Sierra Club has criticised Nebraska's public power industry for not getting more wind power going.

The state's public power utilities say one reason they're behind is because they're limited by federal law, which offers federal production tax credits to private companies only. So public power districts can only hope to encourage a private company to build a wind farm and then buy the power. Another reason, though, is the difference in state-level incentives.

Iowa's are all over the map and include more aggressive renewable requirements, not just incentives. Nebraska's incentives are barely there and haven't worked well, and a couple of amendments are pending in the Nebraska Legislature right now. MidAmerican, based in Des Moines, Iowa, says it is the largest U.S, owner of wind generation capacity among rate-regulated utilities.

Iowa ranks third among states with the most wind generating power, with 4,536 MWs of installed capacity, behind Texas and California, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Nebraska is halfway down the list of states with more than 400 MWs, which is expected to double over the next 18 months as $600 million in wind power investment is spent.

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