In Iowa, 3.18 million people and all of their industry use an estimated 46 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity a year. A 2014 report by the state’s energy commission reported that 23 coal-powered plants produced the majority of that energy, approximately 36 TWh. But things have changed since then.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy has taken that top spot away from coal now in 2020. New projects in Iowa in 2018 and 2019 added tremendous numbers of wind farms in the state, and now they make an estimated 40 percent of the state’s energy. Only Texas added more wind power capacity in 2019, but per capita, Iowa’s progress was far greater.
Iowa has also become the second state in the country in wind industry jobs, with over 9,000, nearly half of which are new jobs. Their investment in wind and other renewables jumped from $3 billion to $19 billion.
There’s some concern from Iowa farmers about wind farms using land they have previously planted, and they have supported tightening regulations on where renewable energy farms (wind and solar) can be built. But other reports suggest that farmers are among those who benefit most from wind farms in Iowa: land leases by energy companies are a reliable income for farmers who are otherwise at the mercy of a very turbulent market.
“I would say the absence of financial stress has been a real game-changer for me,” Tom Cunningham, a retired farmer, told the Des Moines Register. “The turbines make up for the [crop] export issues we’ve been facing.”
Iowa and Kansas are the only U.S. states that now use wind for the majority of their electricity production. This puts the states at No. 9 (Iowa) and No. 10 (Kansas) among state rankings for total renewable energy production. They have a long way to go to catch up to Vermont, which sits at No. 1, with over 99 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources, most of that from hydroelectric dams.