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MidAmerican, Siemens Secure 1 GW Turbine Pact for Iowa Wind Farms

We're just days away from the end of calendar 2013, which means a number of annual rituals: holiday parties, lists of top-everything-whatever -- and angst over the expiring production tax credit (PTC) that has been key to the U.S. wind industry's growth.

Last year's PTC was ultimately extended at the 11th hour, and its language tweaked this spring changing the requirements that a power plant must be online to requiring that a plant be "under construction" either through physical work being done or the developer having incurred 5 percent of the total cost. With the PTC's expiration looming one again, look for some last-minute announcements as wind developers try to get some projects nailed down.

And now we have Exhibit A: MidAmerican has ordered 1 GW of turbines from Siemens AG for its five planned new wind farms in Iowa scheduled to come online in 2015, spanning sizes of 44 MW up to 500 MW, adding to the roughly 2.3 GW the company already operates in the state. The blades will be built in Siemens' Fort Madison, Iowa plant and the nacelles and hubs will be assembled in Hutchinson, Kansas. With these turbine investments, those projects officially qualify for the PTC as it currently exists, according to Adam Wright, VP of wind generation at MidAmerican.

About half of that collective 1 GW of new Iowa wind capacity is expected to be installed by the end of 2014, with the "civil work" completed for the remaining 500 MW, which will add turbines and come into service in 2015, Wright explained. But in a surprise, he also revealed that the 44-MW Vienna II expansion originally slated to be completed in the fall of 2014 has already begun commercial operations -- it came online on December 4, to take advantage of the current PTC's bonus depreciation.

MidAmerican and Siemens will broadcast all this news live at 1 pm Central Time today; watch it here or on AWEA's home page.

Iowa is one of the leading U.S. state adopters of wind energy, getting nearly a quarter of its total power generation from wind in 2012. It ranked third in the nation for MW installed (5.1 GW) and number of wind turbines (3,200). The Iowa Wind Energy Association projects 10 GW of installed capacity in the state by 2017, with a statewide potential of 570 GW.

Vienna wind power plant. Credit: MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company

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