- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy Company announced plans Thursday to spend $3.6 billion on a wind turbine operation that would generate enough energy to power about 800,000 Iowa homes - an effort officials called the largest economic development project in state history.

Bill Fehrman, the utility’s CEO and president, announced the company’s 11th wind project at an event on the Iowa State Fair Grounds attended by Gov. Terry Branstad and other state officials.

Branstad thanked company leaders for their unprecedented investment, calling the project a “major milestone” in Iowa’s rapidly-growing wind energy industry.

“Once the project is complete, the state will be on track as the very first state in the nation to generate more than 40 percent of our energy from wind power,” he said.

The utility will create wind energy that equals 85 percent of its annual customer sales in Iowa with the completion of the project, according to Fehrman. MidAmerican is the state’s largest utility.

“Our company has a very bold dream and that dream is to someday deliver 100 percent renewable energy to our customers,” he said.

Company officials didn’t release where the roughly 1,000 turbines would be built but said the utility will finalize locations while the Iowa Utilities Board considers the project. Fehrman said he hopes to have the project approved by mid-September, which would put them on track to adding 2,000 megawatts of wind energy in the state by 2020.

MidAmerican already has wind farms operating or being built in 23 out of Iowa’s 99 counties since the company’s first turbines were installed in 2004, Fehrman said.

Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham, who also attended the Thursday press conference, said wind power supports about 7,000 jobs in the state. The latest project proposal will employ 1,100 construction workers along with about 95 permanent workers, Fehrman said.

The company is not asking for state aid to help fund the project, and Fehrman said it won’t come at the cost of customers either. Instead the company will utilize federal production tax credits to make up for the cost.

Clean energy advocates also applauded the company’s efforts following the announcement.

“MidAmerican made clean energy history today,” said Bruce Nilles, the senior director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, “Iowa and MidAmerican’s rapid transition from dirty coal to affordable wind offers a game changing new model for how utilities will reach 100 percent renewable energy more quickly than anyone would have predicted.”

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