Iowa’s hugely successful wind industry isn’t just an economic driver, it’s having a major impact on cutting pollution and saving water. Wind energy generation in Iowa avoids more than 8.4 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution — the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road, according to a new report released by Environment Iowa.
Additionally, the report found that wind energy saves Iowans nearly 3.8 billion gallons of water per year, enough to meet the needs of over 158,000 people. The U.S. National Drought Monitor shows a significant portion of the state is in moderate to severe drought conditions and has been for several months.
The rapid growth of wind energy in Iowa is remarkable; it now provides 13.9 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, equal to 24.5 percent of the state’s total electricity and the highest percentage nationwide. Further, Environment Iowa predicts that “Iowa could be on track to nearly double its wind production in the next five years so that wind could generate as much as 50 percent of all electricity in the state by 2018.”
A key reason for the state’s ability to attract major investment in wind energy is the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is currently set to expire at the end of the year. In May, MidAmerican Energy Co. announced it will invest $1.9 billion in wind energy in Iowa, the largest single economic investment in the state. The project is expected to add 1,050 megawatts of wind generation and the added wind generation is expected to cut consumer rates by $3.3 million in 2015 and $10 million annually by 2017, the company estimated.
As USA Today pointed out, unlike recently announced fertilizer plant construction projects, “MidAmerican Energy will receive no state incentives but will receive federal wind production tax credits.”
Despite its vital role in driving the expansion of the wind industry — and driving economic growth not only in Iowa, but states such as Texas, California, and Colorado, to name a few — the PTC will expire at the end of the year, absent Congressional intervention. “On the strength of the tax credit, Kansas became a leader in wind energy development as the industry invested nearly $3 billion in the state during 2011 and 2012,” The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. But Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) is unmoved; “It expires at the end of the year, and I’m urging my colleagues to simply let it happen,” Pompeo said. Also pushing for expiration are several groups backed by the ultra-conservative, anti-clean energy, petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers.