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United States

NextEra files lawsuit in bid to halt MidAmerican plans

US: NextEra Energy, the largest owner of wind turbines in the US, has filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse a unanimous December decision by the Iowa Utility Board (IUB) allowing Iowa utility MidAmerican Energy to proceed with a plan to build 1001MW of new wind power.

NextEra: opposed to MidAmerican's wind power ambitions
NextEra: opposed to MidAmerican's wind power ambitions

The decision followed a contentious proceeding that produced lengthy testimonies from both sides and months of deliberation by the IUB.

At issue is whether the build-out will give MidAmerican an unfair advantage by serving as a platform for market control regarding wind and transmission development in Iowa and neighbouring states.

NextEra, which owns 650MW of existing Iowa wind capacity, had argued that the IUB should compel the utility to buy some of NextEra’s assets or offer power purchase agreements to satisfy some of MidAmerican’s ambitious plan for growth.

The appeal could take half a year or more to unfold but is unlikely to turn in NextEra’s favour, says John Perkins, utility consumer advocate for the State of Iowa, adding that briefs from existing testimony will be filed but no new evidence will be submitted.

"Occasionally, parties will appeal an order," Perkins says. "But rarely does the court overturn what an administrative tribunal does. It would be rare to find that they grossly screwed up."

MidAmerican, controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway holding company, has publicly acknowledged it will not need new wind generation on its system until 2019.

But the utility plans to finish the new projects by 2012 and wants to move quickly in order to take advantage of a buyer’s turbine market and federal stimulus money aimed at renewable energy.

Under the December ruling, MidAmerican, which already has 1350MW of wind on its system, must file a compliance report with the board after completing 750MW before it can proceed with the final 251MW.

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