MidAmerican plans to add 2 GW of wind energy resources in Iowa

MidAmerican Energy said it plans to to spend $3.9 billion to add more than 2 GW of wind energy and 50 MW of solar generation in Iowa.

The company also proposed feasibility studies to look at other clean generation technologies, including carbon capture, energy storage and small modular nuclear reactors. The company said that since 2004, it has invested around $14 billion in renewable energy projects across Iowa. 

If approved, the new capacity–known as Wind PRIME–would enable the utility to cover 111% of its customers’ annual energy needs with renewable energy and sustain 100% coverage into the 2030s.

MidAmerican estimates that the Wind PRIME project could create more than 1,100 full-time jobs during the construction phase and another 125 full-time positions for ongoing operations and maintenance.

MidAmerican currently generates energy using 60% wind, 23% coal, 12% natural gas and 5% nuclear and other resources. It said that it added 61 MW of solar capacity in 2021 and plans to add another 80 MW this year.

In a filing with state utility regulators, the company asked that the cost cap for Wind PRIME be set at $1.89 million per megawatt (including Allowance for Funds Used During Construction–AFUDC) for wind-powered facilities and $1.854 million per MW (including AFUDC) for solar-powered generation. It asked that its rate base reflect actual costs if capital costs are lower than projected capital costs. The utility said it would seek regulatory approval if actual capital costs exceed the cost cap.

The utility also asked for an 11.25% allowed return on the common equity portion of Wind PRIME. It asked for an AFUDC rate that recognizes a return on common equity rate of 10.0% for construction work in progress. 

The utility asked regulators to issue a decision on its proposal by October 31. MidAmerican said that timing would allow it to secure federal tax credits for the project.

In early 2021, leaders in Des Moines, Iowa’s most populous city, passed a resolution calling for a transition to 100% carbon-free electricity community-wide by 2035. Officials explored several strategies, including solar panels on city buildings and an expanded energy benchmarking program for buildings.

MidAmerican officials told the City Council at the time that shifting to 100% renewable energy with storage would more than triple average residential electric bills from $74 to $264. Des Moines’ franchise agreement with MidAmerican expires this year, and its clean energy goals could be addressed by the utility’s planned investment in large-scale wind. Missing from MidAmerican’s Wind PRIME proposal are specific commitment to small-scale distributed solar and energy storage resources.

In 2014, Minneapolis used the expiration of its franchise agreement with Xcel Energy to press the utility on clean energy goals.