By Tim Kapucian
We are a commodity state. We export our corn, hogs, beef and beans around the world. And in a few years, if the stars align correctly, we will export a lot more of our wind.
Currently, Iowa is No. 2 in the nation for wind production, and we’re sneaking up on Texas for the No. 1 spot.
So far, we have been great at harnessing the wind for our own use but we need to be better at moving that wind from farm to market. According to a study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and AWS Truepower, at 100 meters of height, Iowa has the potential to generate more than 40 times what the entire state uses each year by harnessing very high-capacity wind energy. We need a way to move the surplus of this abundant commodity from where it’s produced to where it’s needed. The recent, unanimous approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow Rock Island Clean Line to proceed with its plan to sign up customers on the proposed transmission line and finance construction of the project based on contracts with those customers takes us one step closer to making new transmission a reality.
Gov. Terry Branstad was thrilled when he heard about the FERC’s decision: “The Rock Island Clean Line project has the potential to bring billions of dollars of new investment to Iowa and create thousands of jobs.”
And we should be also.
Rock Island Clean Line has held hundreds of meetings with landowners, growers and producers as well as county officials explaining what this $1.7 billion project means for rural counties and communities. The development of this line will allow about 4,000 megawatts of Iowa wind energy to be delivered around the country. That is enough power to light 1.4 million homes in the Midwest and put 2,000 new wind turbines in the ground.
It means $7 billion of new wind farms bringing millions of dollars of landowner payments and millions of dollars of property tax payments to struggling local governments. And it means jobs.
Construction of the line and the associated new wind farms will bring an estimated 5,000 temporary jobs and 500 permanent jobs. It means the turbine manufacturers in Newton, Cedar Rapids and West Branch will keep their facilities humming. It means that supply chain manufacturers in 56 of Iowa’s 99 counties will keep their doors open.
Projects of this magnitude take an enormous amount of time and effort; the regulatory hurdles required to complete this project are monumental.
Congratulations to the Rock Island Clean Line for winning FERC approval to move forward.
Welcome to Iowa.
Tim Kapucian is a state senator from Keystone. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org