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Wind Industry Profile of

All Eyes On... Iowa

In recent decades, the US state of Iowa has developed from a classical agricultural state to a progressive and innovative one. The high-tech company Apple recently announced that its new data center in Iowa is under construction. The reason for the attractiveness of the state is blowing in the wind...

By TUBS - Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)By TUBS - Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)By TUBS - Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)By TUBS - Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Every four years, the eyes of all US citizens are directed at Iowa. That is when the first US primary elections for the presidential election are held there. But the federal state in the heart of the United States is still at the forefront in another area: as early as 1983, the first US law on the use of renewable energies was passed there. The state ordered all major energy utilities to have a minimum share of 105 MW of renewable energies in their portfolio. And since the wind conditions in this wide, flat state are excellent, wind energy has been consistently expanded since then.

Traditionally, the country belongs to the so-called 'Corn Belt', the agricultural grain belt that runs through the Midwestern United States. But while other US states in this region are experiencing problems with the decline of agricultural prices, Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

One of the reasons for this is that they were looking for alternatives to agriculture at an early stage - and found them in the industrial sector. Today, wind turbines are not only erected, but also built there. In addition to rotor blade manufacturer TPI Composites, Siemens and Acciona, for example, also operate plants on site, so that AWEA assumes that for the year 2016 alone a sum of 13.1 billion dollars in capital has flowed into the federal state through the wind industry.

Open, flat land is predestined for wind energy (Photo: Katrin Radtke)

With 6,974 megawatts of installed capacity in wind energy, Iowa only has to bow to Texas, the industry leader - and there is no end in sight. Currently, turbines for almost 3 gigawatts are being planned, which will ensure that many more will be added to the 8,000 to 9,000 people currently employed in the wind energy sector: up to 17,000 people could work in the sector by 2020, as Navigant predicts. More than half of the three million inhabitants of the state can already be supplied with wind energy today. According to calculations by the U.S. DOE, the potential for 2030 is huge: as many as 6.3 million people could be supplied with clean energy from Iowa.

And wind does not only bring jobs directly in the wind industry or along the supply chain: Apple announced at the end of last month that the company wants to build another data center in Iowa. The American high-tech company attaches great importance to the fact that the huge energy guzzlers are only operated with renewable energy - from day one. One reason why Iowa has now been chosen, as CEO Tim Cook explains: “At Apple, we’re always looking at ways to deliver even better experiences for our customers. Our new data center in Iowa will help serve millions of people across North America who use Siri, iMessage, Apple Music and other Apple services - all powered by renewable energy. Apple is responsible for 2 million jobs in all 50 states and we’re proud today’s investment will add to the more than 10,000 jobs we already support across Iowa, providing even more economic opportunity for the community.”

This is how Apple's new data center should look when it is finished (Image: Apple)

In Iowa people are proud of the fact that the Californians invest so much money in the state and emphasise their own pioneering spirit in the field of renewable energies. “We’re honored Apple is choosing Iowa for the site of its most technologically advanced data center to date,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “Apple’s commitment to innovation and renewable energy leadership mirrors our own. This investment in our state is vital as we continue to develop as a technology hub and grow our workforce.”

Another point in favour of the state is the low energy price. Energy supplier MidAmerican Energy, for example, is currently building a 2,000 MW wind power project known as Wind XI. However, the turbine fleet, which has in some cases become outdated, is also being looked at. Since the construction of the turbines in Iowa began early on, the first old turbines have to be replaced or repowered.

In the years to come, repowering will create more jobs - and energy prices will remain stable and secure, said Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy: “We’re excited to take this next step in our journey toward our 100% Renewable Energy Vision. Repowering our older wind turbines brings us closer to achieving that vision in a way that provides both economic and environmental benefits to our customers and the state of Iowa. In 2021 when both our repowering and Wind XI projects are complete, we expect to generate renewable energy equal to 95% of our Iowa retail customers’ annual use.” Great plans that go well with Iowa's pioneering spirit.

Katrin Radtke
Iowa, USA, Apple, Siemens, Acciona, TPI Composites, MidAmerican Energy, utility, wind farm, repowering

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