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Utility moving fast and confident -- Forging ahead in Iowa

While some utilities are just beginning to embrace wind, MidAmerican Energy is defining its own path by developing, owning and operating the majority of its own projects. By the end of next year, the company intends to bring another 540 MW of new wind power online in its home state of Iowa. This latest flurry of activity will secure the company's rank as the largest owner of wind turbines by a regulated utility in the US -- generating more than 1000 MW and raising its total capacity from renewable sources to 18%.

The new plan, approved by the Iowa Utilities Board in July, includes potential development of six new projects near the cities of Carroll, Spencer, Adair, Charles City, Orient and Walnut. At a time when most other regulated utilities in the US buy their wind generation from privately owned facilities -- with only a handful tip-toeing into ownership -- MidAmerican plans on owning wind power stations and is working as the lead project developer in charge of securing all land easements. It is moving fast.

"The new order gives us up to 2013 to get it done," says MidAmerican's Allan Urlis. "But our plan is to get it done in 2008, which coincides with the expiration of the production tax credit. All together, with all of our wind projects and what we have planned, we're looking at $1.84 billion of investment."

Only at one facility is MidAmerican looking for outside help. Part of the new order is a 75 MW expansion planned for the Pomeroy project in Pocahontas County, where an initial 123 MW -- part of the previous order -- is scheduled for completion this year. Both phases are being developed for MidAmerican by Electricité de France, through its US wind subsidiary, Enxco.

Mid-American will own and operate all the projects. Completion of the full 540 MW, however, depends on securing enough turbines, says Urlis. "All we're saying at this point is that we're confident in our ability to procure all the equipment that we need," he adds. "But that's what will determine the ultimate size of the projects."

Another 222 MW this year

By year's end, MidAmerican expects to finish up 222 MW of its previous 545 MW order -- the 99 MW Victory Energy Center in Carroll and Crawford counties along with the 123 MW first phase of Pomeroy -- before moving on to the new 540 MW plan. Having gone as far as it could on the first phase, the second allows it to keep its wind development momentum going.

Prior to the two recent orders, MidAmerican owned and operated the 185 MW Century Wind Project and the 175.5 MW Intrepid Project. The company also has a power purchase agreement for 113 MW of wind power in northwest Iowa, which comes from the only project in its portfolio it does not own.

Iowa, the tenth windiest US state, had 967 MW of installed wind power through the first half of 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The state has long ranked a distant third to California and Texas in terms of installed wind plant, although Minnesota and Washington remain close behind. Mid-American serves 700,000 electricity customers in Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota.

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