Environment Iowa study underscores wind energy's benefits

Wind energy now provides 24.5 percent of Iowa's electricity, study finds

March 28, 2014 | 11:49 pm

The environmental benefits of wind energy more than justify an extension of federal incentives set to expire at the end of the year, according to a report released Wednesday by Environment Iowa.

Wind energy produced in Iowa avoids more than 8.4 million metric tons of climate-altering pollution – the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road, the report, “Wind Energy for a Cleaner America,” stated.

The report also states that today’s wind energy in Iowa avoids 7,928 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 9,793 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot.

“Wind energy is improving our quality of life in Iowa, but without an extension of federal wind energy incentives, we will be leaving a lot of environmental benefits on the table,” said Michelle Hesterberg of Environment Iowa.

The report shows that wind energy now provides 13.9 million megawatt-hours of electricity in Iowa, equal to 24.5 percent of the state’s electricity.

With a continuation of the incentives, Iowa could nearly double its wind production in the next five years, with wind generating half of all electricity in the state by 2018, according to Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association.

Hesterberg said Iowa’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of federal incentives for wind power.

The federal renewable energy production tax credit, which provides an income tax credit of 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for utility-scale wind energy producers, and the investment tax credit, which covers up to 30 percent of the capital cost of new renewable energy investments, are set to expire at the end of the year.

Despite the benefits of wind and widespread bipartisan support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, fossil fuel interests and their political allies have vigorously opposed these initiatives, Hesterberg said.

"Wind generates no harmful emissions and uses no water for cooling purposes, and the raw material (the wind) is a free constantly renewing resource,” Prior said.

“It’s not like we’re asking for special favors. All energy production is heavily subsidized, and wind is as competitive as any other source of energy. Eliminate all energy subsidies, and wind will do just fine on a level playing field,” he said.

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