MidAmerican Energy, Buffet's utility, announced it will build 1.05 gigawatt (GW) of wind in Iowa, to come online by the end of 2015.
Governor Terry Branstad calls the project "the largest economic development investment in the history of the state." Besides creating hundreds of jobs, he noted that more companies will locate to Iowa because of the breadth of clean energy there, using Facebook's new data center as an example.
A $1.9 billion investment will spread 656 wind turbines across privately owned land, paying landowners $3.2 million in revenue. It will add more than $360 million in property taxes over the next 30 years and rather than increasing electric rates, it will stabilize them over the long term, says the company. By 2017, electric rates will be reduced $10 million a year, starting with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015.
Iowa currently has 5 GW of wind and is on track to generate 10 GW by 2020. Wind generates 25% of Iowa's electricity; South Dakota is the only other state where clean energy is that much of the mix.
The project will reduce MidAmerican Energy's carbon footprint by 10.3%, says the company. The utility serves 714,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota.
"Iowa's congressional delegation created the opportunity for this investment through their support at the federal level and continued an environment that makes this type of investment possible," says Greg Abel, CEO of parent company, MidAmerican Energy Holdings. He is referring to Iowa's support for renewal of the production tax credit.
Since 2004, the year of MidAmerican's first wind project, it has installed 1,267 wind turbines in Iowa or 2.29 GW, an investment of $4 billion. When this project is finished, the utility will have 3.34 GW of wind capacity in Iowa, and the most of any regulated US utility.
When it comes online in January 2016, wind could generate 39% of its retail supply for the month.
Installed wind capacity is enough to supply 6% of US electricity as of 2012.
Many components will be purchased from Iowa manufacturers, such as turbine blades from Siemens Energy in Fort Madison and towers from Trinity Structural Towers in Newton. It cost $2 million for a wind turbine.
Earlier this month, construction began on Antelope Valley Solar Project, the largest solar PV project in the world - owned by the solar arm of MidAmerican.