Impact on Economy and Iowa
The giant producer of windmill blades cited record low natural gas prices, the impact of the recession and the reluctance by the U.S. Congress to enact legislation regarding production tax credit for new wind turbine installations. New orders had fallen off, causing the company to adjust manufacturing, projects and administrative support functions of the wind power production business.
However, total employment in wind energy dipped from 3,107 to 2,831 between 2009 and 2010. And, while it jumped back up this year, it is not expected to grow dramatically in the near future, according to Kerry Koonce, IWD spokeswoman.
"Projections say that growth will probably be flat for awhile as the state is pretty saturated," Koonce said. "This could change if other types of alternative energy outputs falter."
Alliant's request to recover past investments in the Sixth Street Generating Station in Cedar Rapids was reduced by $3.1 million, and Alliant was denied a return on its investment for cost overrages at the Whispering Willow Wind Farm related to wind turbine purchases.
The consumer advocate office believes Alliant should not be allowed to charge customers for bad management decisions it's made in the past, Polle said, citing the higher transmission costs resulting from the 2007 sale of its transmission system to ITC and wind farm overruns as examples. It is asking the board to assess a $5 million per year management inefficiency penalty.
A proposed 14 percent increase from Alliant Energy for electrical rates would not only be a burden on some residential customers, but could affect expansion for local businesses. ...IPL representatives say they need the money to recover costs for "green" energy investments. The 14 percent raise - or $163 million - will fund expenses from Whispering Willow Wind Farm, a $468 million project, and major investments in distribution and transmission infrastructure.
Since the city joined the 15-municipality agency in October 2008, Ames has paid more than $197,000 toward feasibility studies for a yet-to-be-developed wind farm near Ridgeport in Boone County.
Assistant City Manager Sheila Lundt said staff "cringe" at paying about $56,000 more to IAMWind to exit from the agency, but "We just don't want any more financial entanglements than we already have."
A Ethanol production and wind-turbine manufacturing have been two of the biggest sources of new green jobs in Iowa, but the state's biggest growth opportunity may be in research and development, an economist said.
David Swenson, an economic development specialist at Iowa State University, said that ethanol production is leveling off and that there is stiff competition among states for manufacturing of wind turbine parts.
Last month, wind turbine blade manufacturer TPI Composites officially opened its doors in Newton, promising 500 new jobs. Now an incentive plan by the city council hopes to add another 300 jobs.
The problem, some former Maytag employees say, is that the county and state are paying for most of the cost of constructing the plant. They're worried that like Maytag, TPI could take the money and pull out of Newton.
"I just hope they can live up to their agreements and continue to manufacture blades here in the community," said Maytag retiree Lonnie White.
Wind energy is booming in Iowa, and backers say it's only the beginning. ...But the jobs could blow away, economists warn, just as other manufacturing jobs have disappeared because of competition and technological change. Other states want to attract manufacturers, too. Wind power depends on subsidies, and changes in government policies could dampen the enthusiasm for wind. ...John Solow, a University of Iowa economics professor, is cautiously optimistic about the future for wind generation and turbine manufacturing.
Future policy decisions and technological innovations could change that, he said. A breakthrough in clean-burning coal, for example, could reduce interest in wind energy and biofuels, he said.
Next week Acciona Windpower will begin construction work next week on its first wind turbine plant in the United States - in West Branch.
The facility, to be built at the site of the old Sauer-Danfoss building, is expected to be operational by the end of the year. It represents an investment of $23 million and will produce 250 wind turbines in 2008 using in-house technology.