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Iowa Company, University Building the State’s Wind Energy Leadership

December 4, 2014

Iowa’s national leadership in wind energy generation is about to get even stronger. MidAmerican Energy Company announced it plans to spend nearly $280 million to erect 67 new wind turbines; 64 in Adams County in southwest Iowa and three in O’Brien County in northwest Iowa by the end of 2015. The new turbines are in addition to a $1.9 billion investment in wind energy generation the company announced in May. That project would add more than 650 wind turbines to MidAmerican’s system – enough to power more than one million homes. If approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, nearly 50 percent of all of MidAmerican Energy’s power generation will come from wind. According to the American Wind Energy Association, 27.4 percent of the electricity used in Iowa last year was generated by wind, the highest percentage in the U.S. Additionally, Iowa’s electricity rates average 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour below the national average. The abundance of wind energy produced in Iowa was a key factor in enticing Google, Facebook and Microsoft to choose Iowa locations for new data centers. Meanwhile, researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) are studying ways to enable wind turbines to generate between 15 percent and 40 percent more electricity. One project, supported with grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Iowa Energy Center, is examining the feasibility of substituting hexagonal concrete blocks for the steel towers that hold turbine blades. Sri Sritharan, leader of the ISU College of Engineering’s Wind Energy Initiative, says concrete towers could allow turbines to be built to a height of 120 meters, or 40 meters taller than steel towers. Raising the height would enable turbine blades to capture more wind at a more consistent speed. Another research project at ISU is looking into the feasibility of installing dual rotor turbines. The second set of blades would capture additional wind produced by the wake of air flowing past the first set of blades.



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