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MidAmerican plans to spend $3.6B on 2,000 MW of wind power in Iowa

plans toadd as much as 2,000 MW of wind power in Iowa as part of a project that theBerkshire Hathaway Energy-ownedcompany described as the biggest economic development project in the state'shistory, the company said April 14.

The$3.6 billion project, dubbed Wind XI, also would be the largest wind projectever pursued by MidAmerican, which currently owns more than 3,450 MW of windcapacity, making up about 38% of the company's total portfolio of power plants,according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.In January, the company addedanother 154 MW of wind to its portfolio by completing the Adams Wind Farm inIowa, which was the largest wind project added to the grid across the countrythat month. In December 2015, MidAmerican the 502-MW Highland Windproject in O'Brien County, Iowa.

MidAmerican provides electricity to 752,000 customers inIowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota, and expects the Wind XI project toboost the company's wind energy use to equal 85% of its annual customer salesin Iowa, putting the company within "striking distance" of a goal of100% renewable energy for its Iowa customers, MidAmerican President and CEOBill Fehrman said in a statement.As of the end of the last year, the company generated the equivalent of 47% ofits Iowa's customers' energy from wind, according to a MidAmerican spokeswoman.

The location of the project is still in the works.MidAmerican hopes to get state regulatory approval of rate-making principlesfor the project by September in order to qualify for the maximum possiblefederal wind production tax credit. Late in 2015, Congress extended theproduction tax credit for five years, but its value falls by 20% in 2017, andthen declines by another 20% in 2018 as well as 2019. The fullvalue of the wind credit applies to projects that begin construction in 2016.

Despite all the wind farms that have been constructed in thestate, some wind power advocates have saidthe renewable energy resource has the potential to provide more than 44 timesthe current amount of Iowa's electricity needs. "Wind XI puts Iowa ontrack to be the first state in the nation to generate more than 40% of itsenergy needs from wind power — far ahead of any other state. Today, Iowa is theonly state to have crossed the 30% mark," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said inthe statement.

MidAmerican estimates that it has spent $6.6 billion onbuilding wind facilities over the past 12 years. The company finished its firstwind project in 2004.