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News Analysis: November 8, 2007

posted on November 8, 2007 at 6:01 PM

Yepsen: Talk a little bit about the Germans who were here looking at wind energy.

Beck: Well, there were representatives from about twelve dozen companies that were here this week being courted by Iowa. Right now Germany has the highest wind capacity in the world, but they expect the United States to overtake them in a year or two, and Iowa is front and center in maybe landing some of those manufacturing jobs that come with these.

Because the parts are so big and bulky, you can't really ship a lot of this overseas, so you have to produce it here. And they're looking at Iowa and they think that our utilities have been the most friendly to them in the manufacturing and use of wind power here in the state.

You know, we've already got three of the largest manufacturers in the world with locations in Iowa, and now you've got a new blade manufacturing plant opening in Newton, a wind turbine tower plant opening in Keokuk. So they're just looking to compete and want to be here, possibly.

Yepsen: So is it possible that Iowa could become kind of a manufacturing hub for this equipment in the United States?

Beck: It could. We're competing against the likes of California and Texas, who are also big into this game, and other states are definitely starting to bite at our heels and want to get a part of this. But Iowa is well on the way, and the one new competitor, apparently, I hear that's coming on the market is Detroit and places like that. As they're losing some of the auto jobs, they're looking to recruit wind energy jobs. So Iowa has to keep trying to stay at the forefront of this.

Yepsen: Is there a sense from the people that you talk to that wind energy might enable Iowa to not have to build all those coal plants that are being talked about? There's a lot of controversy around these coal plants that are going -- that are planned for Iowa. Could wind energy eliminate the need for those?

Beck: It might be able to help make us more self-sufficient. It looks like it would be difficult for us to ever export power -- you know, we're an importer of electricity right now -- and just the generation that it would require in the lines.

But as I said, the renewable energy consultant from Germany said that the utility companies in Iowa have been the most receptive of any state she's ever been to the use of wind power. So it is possible that could be the wave of the future.

Tags: alternative energy Iowa news