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The Associated Press March 3, 2010, 1:27PM ET

Study: Wind energy keeps Iowa power costs down

Wind energy accounts for up to 20 percent of Iowa's total electricity production, and is helping to keep the state's power costs among the lowest in the nation, a study released Wednesday showed.

Authors of the study said it debunks arguments that alternative energy and other measures to combat climate change are too expensive. The study was conducted by the Iowa Policy Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Iowa City.

"Those people who tell us we can't do anything about global climate change because it will be too expensive are wrong, Iowa is proving it wrong," said David Osterberg, an Iowa Policy Project researcher and one of the authors of the study.

The study found that wind produced 3,670 megawatts of electricity in the state. If that power were used solely within the state it would produce enough electricity to power 940,000 homes -- roughly three-quarters of the state's homes.

The study noted that MidAmerican Energy is one of the most aggressive utility companies in the nation on wind energy, securing approval in December to install another 1,001 megawatts of production.

Iowa continues to rank second to Texas in wind production in the United States, the study found.

The authors pointed to research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing that roughly three-quarters of Iowa has high enough wind at 80 meters above the ground to produce wind energy.

"Thus, even as Iowa is leading the way in harnessing wind energy, there is significant room to increase our use of the wind's renewable power," the study said.

"America need not fear taking strong steps to address climate change, new estimates of Iowa wind production and production potential show this," said Teresa Galluzzo, another author of the study.

Coal-fired plants produce about 75 percent of the state's electricity, and there is one nuclear plant in the state.

In examining electricity costs, the study found that Iowans paid about 6 cents per kilowatt hour in 1998. That climbed to 7 cents per kilowatt hour by 2008. Over the same time period, national average electricity costs went from 7 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 10 cents.

"Amidst Iowa's massive expansion of wind power, our average electricity prices have remained below the national average and in fact have not increased as quickly as the national average price in the last four years," the study said.

The study said MidAmerican is the national leader in wind generation by rate-regulated utilities, with 1,393 megawatts either in operation or under construction. That's in addition to the 1,001 megawatts of capacity approved in December. The study said Iowa is the seventh windiest state in the nation.

One shortfall the study found was determining how much of the electricity produced in the state is actually consumed within its borders. When power is shipped into the electrical grid it is pooled together and it's difficult to determine which portion of the power comes from which source.

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