New wind project would move MidAmerican within reach of 100% renewables goal
- MidAmerican Energy is one project approval away from hitting its goal of supplying enough renewable energy to equal its customers' annual power demand, the utility announced Wednesday.
- If Iowa regulators greenlight the utility's Wind XII project — a 591 MW wind investment filed the same day — the utility will be able to generate enough renewable electricity over the course of a year to match the electricity demand from its customers, though MidAmerican will still produce electricity from other sources when wind is not available.
- The announcement follows a number of moves from utilities in the Great Plains to increase wind capacity. In many cases, executives say, building new wind farms in the region can be cheaper than operating existing power plants.
Wednesday's announcement marks a dramatic shift in MidAmerican's power mix. In 2004, 70% of the utility's generation came from coal and it had no wind on its system.
Today, coal is less than a third of the utility's generation, and it is preparing to site enough wind to meet its customers' annual power demand. The utility will still need other resources — like natural gas and coal plants — to supply power when wind is not available, but company leaders nonetheless treated the announcement as a major milestone.
"We have been able to invest in renewables while at the same time keeping electric rates affordable for the long term," CEO Adam Wright said in a statement, noting that the utility will not ask for a rate increase to pay for the project.
That investment is possible due to historically low prices for wind energy in the Great Plains, and MidAmerican is far from the only utility to notice. Last year, Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke told Utility Dive his company can often build wind projects for less than it would cost to provide fuel to its legacy plants.
"We're looking at [prices] in the low teens to low 20s [in dollars/MWh] — not starting prices, but levelized across the 25-year life of the project," he said. "That beats gas, even at today’s prices."
The MidAmerican Wind XII project is currently pending at the Iowa Utilities Board under docket RPU-2018-0003.
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