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Iowa leading the way in U.S. wind energy

By Debi Dunham

As the U.S. continues its quest toward a more sustainable future, the wind energy industry-and Iowa-are leading the way.

The U.S. Midwest, Iowa in particular, is home to some of the best wind resources and efforts in the country, making significant strides and driving the industry forward. The stats help to tell the story: Iowa is the top state in the U.S. for the

percentage of electricity generated by wind energy, a whopping 27.4 percent, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). It has some 3,216 wind turbines that generate 5,177 MW. In April of this year, Iowa had an additional 1,055 MW under construction.

Iowa is home to a number of wind manufacturing companies and wind farms, which employ thousands across the state.

Wind energy has the potential to offer an abundance of benefits throughout the U.S. including reviving our national energy independence, being more environmentally friendly by reducing our carbon footprint, and putting people to work. Iowa's wind industry provides numerous benefits throughout the state and plays an important role in our growing economy.

Our hard work is paying off. Companies are taking notice of Iowa's reputation and innovation in the wind energy sector and have made significant investments in the state. Recently, Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Energy (formerly MidAmerican Energy) announced plans to add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation in Iowa by 2015. Not only was this $1.9 billion investment Siemens' biggest order to date for land-based wind equipment, it also became the largest onshore turbine order in the world. This one project brings with it the ability to provide clean energy for nearly 320,000 American households and major benefits to Iowans in the form of job creation. This particular project requires just over 440 wind turbines to be built, including having the rotor blades built in Iowa at Siemens' Fort Madison plant.

By investing in our state and building part of the turbines in Iowa, these two companies have created approximately 1,000 construction jobs and approximately 40 permanent jobs dedicated to the ongoing maintenance of the turbines.

Having an abundance of wind energy investment throughout the state has also played a role in attracting the operations of big names like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

Facebook's Altoona data center will be its first facility powered 100 percent by renewable wind energy. In April 2013, the social media giant announced plans to invest in the state by building a $300 million data center. One of the company's main reasons for choosing Iowa was to take advantage of Iowa's growing wind energy sector.

Google also made a significant investment in Iowa's wind energy industry in 2010 when it committed to purchasing 114 megawatts of wind energy from a wind farm in central Iowa. Then again in 2012, Google invested $75 million in a wind farm located in Rippey, Iowa, that increased their wind energy usage to 100 percent, with the ability to support future expansions with wind power.

More recently, Sabre Industries located in Sioux City, Iowa, announced that they were the preferred supplier of transmission structures for the proposed Rock Island Clean Line project, a 500-mile transmission line that will carry 3,500 megawatts of wind power from northwest Iowa into Illinois and states farther east.

Globally recognized companies locating their businesses in Iowa depend on our commitment to help power the nation. Iowa offers companies a business-friendly atmosphere, a convenient, centralized location that is statistically less likely to be impacted by severe weather, and one of the lowest costs of doing business in the nation.

But we're also investing in the future success of our wind industry. Iowa is home to numerous community colleges, which offer sophisticated training programs specifically designed for those looking for a career in the wind industry. In fact, Iowa Lakes Community College's program received the American Wind Energy Association's Seal of Approval, as its program was the first of its kind in the nation.

It's clear why Iowa is a leader in wind energy and helping companies thrive. Iowa has the unique resources, commitment to innovation, and access to renewable energy to allow growth and expansion for some of the world's largest companies-but we know that's not enough. Even with our continued growth and achievements, we refuse to rest on our laurels-we're just getting started.

Debi Durham is Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority ( iowaeconomicdevelopment.com ).