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Governor Continues Support for Wind Energy in Iowa

Iowa already leads the nation in electricity generation from wind, with the goal of reaching 40 percent of total energy production in less than five years. (Center for Rural Affairs)
Iowa already leads the nation in electricity generation from wind, with the goal of reaching 40 percent of total energy production in less than five years. (Center for Rural Affairs)
January 12, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa generates nearly 30 percent of its electricity from wind, far more than any other state. The goal is to increase that to 40 percent by 2020.

Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said developing the industry is a benefit for the state's other economic-development efforts.

"Every turbine you see driving across the state of Iowa means three things," he said. "It means income for farmers, it means revenue for local governments, and it means jobs for Iowa families."

According to Lu Nelsen, a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, updating the state's electric grid also is necessary.

"Our electric grid is pretty out of date," he said, "and we've been doing a lot in the last couple of years to update that grid and to make it something that can fit where our energy is going to come from in the future."

Some recently proposed projects have drawn criticism from those who are concerned about the impact of more wind turbines and electric transmission lines covering the state. Nelsen said that's one reason to tread carefully.

"These are big projects, and these projects take a lot of time. They take a lot of money," he said. "There's a lot of people that are affected, and so you really need to take your time and be careful about how these projects are developed."

One option is to use existing transmission lines when possible, instead of adding new lines just to shorten the distance energy would travel. That's something Hammes said the governor might endorse.

"The governor generally would be very supportive of utilizing existing lines where they are," Hammes said. "It just only makes sense. In the process of further development that we would need for lines or anything like that, it's a very complex process that goes through the Utilities Board."

Branstad also was recently named the new chair of the national Governors Wind Energy Coalition.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA