Love them or hate them, wind turbines have become a common feature of the Iowa landscape. With their large capital cost behind them and continuing low operating costs, there is no prospect for change in the turbine dominated skyline for a long, long time.
Iowa is a leader in wind powered energy production. In 2012, nearly one-quarter of the state’s electrical generation was from wind. Iowa leads the nation in percentage of electricity derived from wind and is behind only Texas and California in total installed capacity.
Iowa’s immediate future is further expansion of wind energy. MidAmerican Energy, the largest holder of wind generation capacity in the state, has announced a $1.9 billion investment that will add up to 656 towers and increase the states’s wind electricity output by more than 20 percent by the end of next year.
Green as it is, wind power is not a panacea for all of our energy needs. Those associated with fossil fuel industries are quick to point out some of the shortcomings of the technology and pose roadblocks to further development.
Wind power is intermittent. When the wind isn’t blowing, power needs to come from some other source. Back up generation is required, usually from a fossil fuel driven source.
The current cost of wind power generation is somewhat higher than from fossil fuel plants although wind power costs have decreased markedly in recent years and the trend is still downward. Most cost analyses are less than complete because they don’t recognize that for over 150 years we have been spewing carbon dioxide and other fossil fuel residuals into the atmosphere as though it is free and a totally acceptable practice.
Iowan’s can and should take pride in the fact that we are a leader in this segment of the renewable energy scene. Efforts to date avoid 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide discharge to the atmosphere each year. This equates to carbon dioxide discharges from some 1.55 million cars. Since the total vehicle registration in the state is 4.2 million, the magnitude of the impact of wind power generation is evident.
Muscatine Power and Water has recently announced plans to purchase energy from a wind farm to be constructed in southern Minnesota. The project will be completed in 2015 and will provide 5.5 percent of MP&W’s energy requirement. This is a small step but one in the right direction. MP&W should be complimented for this initiative and encouraged to increase the level of wind power utilization to 20 percent by 2020.
A short term increase in power costs to Muscatine consumers may result from the addition of wind generated electricity to the local source of supply. This should not be condemned but should instead be embraced as a small down payment on a better environment and a better world for our grandchildren. We can do more but we must do at least this much.