Our Opinion: Leading the way -- again

Monday, February 13, 2006

We Iowans take a lot of guff from our fellow Americans. We are often stereotyped as shoeless hicks that have hogs living in our homes, rarely seeing civilization -- let alone indoor plumbing. We all know this is wrong, and many of us have a little chip on our shoulder.

So, when any news comes out about our state leading the way, we understandably get a little boastful. (Forgive us, please) This week, the American Wind Energy Association announced that little old backwards Iowa is the third largest producer of wind energy, behind California and Texas.

Our third place ranking came thanks to ambitious construction projects in northwest Iowa. Iowa installed 201.65 megawatts of new wind energy last year. Nationwide, more than 2,400 megawatts were installed. One megawatt of wind power can provide enough power for up to 300 homes.

MidAmerican Energy accounted for most of Iowa's new wind capacity in 2005, completing a $386 million, 257-turbine project in two northern Iowa sites. The lion's share of MidAmerican's power is generated by burning coal.

Iowa law requires that utilities get 2 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Following the completion of the wind turbine projects, MidAmerican now has 360.5 megawatts of capacity at its northern Iowa sites, increasing its total generation from renewable sources to 9 percent. Gov. Tom Vilsack has set a goal for Iowa utilities to produce 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010.

Like most things, the growth in wind power is being driven by the tax code. A federal law provides a 1.5 cent- per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for electricity generated from wind turbines.

Whatever the reason, we are glad that our state is among the leaders in the nation in clean, renewable power. These investments will benefit us all for years to come.