Iowa gets 37 percent of its electric power from wind and solar power, tops in the nation, while Kansas ranks second at 30 percent, according to a new report by the federal government.
Nationally, reliance on wind and solar generation reached an all-time record mark of 10 percent in March, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That was up from 7 percent for all of 2016, underscoring the rapid and dramatic transformation of America's power grid now underway.
Most of that surge has come from wind generation. Solar is in the wings and is expected to ramp quickly as prices continue to fall, experts say.
Texas is the clear leader in the sheer volume of electricity cranked out by renewables - primarily by a vast fleet of wind turbines stretching across the state's expansive landscape.
"In almost all states, wind makes up a larger share of the state’s total electricity generation than solar," the EIA said. "Among the top dozen states, only California and Arizona had more solar generation than wind in 2016. Three states in the top 12—Iowa, Kansas, and North Dakota—had no generation from utility-scale solar plants in 2016 and relatively little output from small-scale solar photovoltaic systems."
Local utilities were elated to learn about their state's high ranking in the report.
Kansas City Power & Light, serving Kansas and Missouri, has long been heavily reliant on coal-fired generation. Just this month, however, it announced plans to shutter five coal-burning facilities at two locations by the end of 2018 and a total of 900 megawatts of coal-fired generation by the end of 2019. The units are 50 years old, built when John Kennedy was in the White House and the Beatles reigned.
Terry Bassham, chairman president and CEO of KCP&L, said through a spokeswoman, "At KCP&L we are committed to innovation and sustainability as we move toward a more balanced generation portfolio. By the end of 2017, more than 20 percent of our power will come from renewable, cleaner generation sources like wind and solar. We are proud to be a part of helping our region become more renewable.”
Iowa is also making great strides towards curbing greenhouse gas emissions believed responsible for climate change.
The state's largest utility, MidAmerican Energy, is investing $3.6 billion to build 2,000 megawatts of wind generation. That effort is the largest economic development effort in the state's history and will be accomplished with no electric rate increase or state aid, according to the company.
“Our long-standing commitment to renewable energy has helped make Iowa a national leader in wind energy, and we plan to advance these efforts even further,” said Bill Fehrman, CEO and president of MidAmerican. “With the completion of our Wind XI project, we will be nearly 90% of the way to our 100% renewable energy vision: to produce enough energy annually from wind to equal the energy needs of our customers in Iowa – at no additional cost to the consumer.”