Located firmly in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the ‘American Heartland’, Iowa was once a part of the French colony of New France, and is known as the “Food Capital of the World”. However, Iowa’s economy, culture, and landscape are diverse, with a strong and burgeoning wind energy industry. PES investigates.
A recent report released by the American Wind Energy Association ranks Iowa first in the nation in its percentage of total electricity produced from wind power and in wind manufacturing jobs. According to the US Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Iowa is placed second in overall wind energy production, behind Texas and ahead of California. It’s an impressive achievement, and one that is prized highly by local campaigners such as Harold Prior, president of the Iowa Wind Energy Association.
“I get calls from all over the country wanting to know how Iowa is able to do accomplish these things in the wind industry,” Prior said. Wind turbine, gear box, blade and tower manufacturers already have set up shop across the state in cities such as Story City, West Branch, Fort Madison and Newton, and US Representative, Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said he expects many more “green collar” jobs in years to come.
“This really is something that has changed the whole dynamic of the state,” Latham said. “The opportunity for young people to have careers in this field is amazing, as far as I’m concerned.”
In 2009, Iowa became the first state to have more than 10 per cent of its total generated electricity come from wind power. The proportion of wind generated electricity was 14.2 per cent – the highest of any state. And at the end of 2009, the installed capacity for wind power in Iowa was 3670 megawatts (MW), a touch more than 10 per cent of the total wind capacity in the US. Furthermore, it has been estimated that by the end of 2010, the percentage generated by wind will increase to between 17 and 20 per cent.
Wind farms in Iowa tend to be sited in the north and west portion of the state. Wind maps show the winds in these areas to be stronger on average, making them better suited for the development of wind energy. For example, the Story County wind farm, near Colo, and the Whispering Willow Wind East, east of Frankin County, are two of the newer projects. Overall, the average capacity factor of Iowa wind farms has been estimated as much as 33.3 per cent by industry experts.
The most recent estimates by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) show that Iowa has potentially 570,700 Megawatts of wind power, placing it firmly within the top 10 states in terms of wind energy potential.