MidAmerican seeks approval on 162 MW of new Iowa wind capacity

MidAmerican Energy is seeking approval from the Iowa Utilities Board on two wind projects under its Wind IX program, with Wind VIII already well under construction.

Included in the package of Oct. 10 testimony filed at the board to open this case was testimony from Adam Wright, the Vice President-Wind Generation and Development for MidAmerican Energy.

He recently managed the development and construction of the final 406.9 MW of MidAmerican’s Wind VII project and is currently managing the 1,050-MW Wind VIII project that was approved by the Iowa Utilities Board in August 2013 under similar ratemaking principles as proposed in this new case. MidAmerican is now proposing to construct the Wind IX Iowa Project, to be located at two Iowa sites. The utility is targeting up to 162 MW (nameplate capacity) of new wind generation assets under Wind IX.

Wright noted that MidAmerican wants to be able to utilize the federal production tax credit (PTC) that has been extended to projects that were under construction before Jan. 1, 2014, and that are constructed and placed in service before Jan. 1, 2016. A quick approval of this application by Jan. 15, 2015, will allow MidAmerican to take full advantage of the tax credit, he pointed out.

Also, Wind IX would provide a partial offset to the reduced generation associated with the expected retirement, no later than April 2016, of over 500 MW of coal-fired generation capacity at Neal Energy Center and Walter Scott Energy Center.

MidAmerican has been heavily engaged in construction of the remainder of the 1,050-MW Wind VIII Iowa Project, and ensuring the Wind VIII sites are on track for successful completion. “It is now clear, based on review of how the safe harbor and start of construction provisions will apply, the estimated development and construction costs, the energy production for the targeted Wind IX sites, and the construction progress for Wind VIII, that we have viable  opportunities and the resource capacity to undertake added wind generation (Wind IX) for completion before January 1, 2016,” Wright said.

The Wind VIII project was approved by the board for installation of up to 1,050 MW and will be completed in tranches through Dec. 31, 2015. However, due to the contracted turbine nameplate capacity of 2.346 MW per turbine, and the fact that fractions of turbines cannot be installed, the final turbine layout at each of the Wind VIII project sites will result in a total nameplate capacity for Wind VIII of 1,051 MW.

In Wind VIII, the 44.6-MW Vienna II project was placed in service in December 2013 in Marshall County, Iowa. An additional 511.4 MW is under construction and on schedule to be in service by Dec. 31, 2014, consisting of: the 140.8-MW Wellsburg site in Grundy County, Iowa; the 119.6-MW Macksburg site in Madison County, Iowa; and the 251-MW Lundgren site in Webster County, Iowa. The remaining 495 MW also are under construction and will be placed in service by Dec. 31, 2015, at the Highland site in O’Brien County, Iowa.

Wind IX means more turbines at Highland, and a new Adams Wind Farm project

Under Wind IX, an expansion by three wind turbines (7 MW) will occur at the planned Highland wind farm, which is one of the Wind VIII sites. Another Wind IX site is targeted to be located in Adams County and will be referred to as Adams Wind Farm. The Adams Wind Farm will have a targeted nameplate capacity of up to 153.4 MW.

An amended and restated generation interconnection agreement for the Highland site was executed with the Midcontinent ISO in July 2014 for a total of 502 MW, which is limited to 475 MW of net output until anticipated network upgrades are completed in late 2018. Approximately 495 MW are being constructed at the Highland site under Wind VIII and the remaining approximately 7.0 MW are proposed to be installed as part of Wind IX.

The 7.0 MW at the Highland site are being pursued under Wind IX to maximize the ultimate interconnection capacity while favorable project economics are in place, including PTC benefits. While the injection limit (i.e., amount that can be introduced to the grid) is set a little below the nameplate capacity of the site, collection line losses, the seasonality of the wind speeds and scheduled and unscheduled turbine maintenance make exceeding the 475 MW limit unlikely on a consistent or frequent basis. However, maximizing the interconnection capacity helps ensure that, after turbine availability and line losses are factored, the most energy and associated PTCs are captured for customers. But, the injection limit is only temporary and the site is expected to be released to full injection capabilities after the network upgrades are completed in late 2018.

The actual turbine size and the number of installed units will depend on overall project economics and turbine suitability, but 67 units manufactured by Siemens Energy ranging between 2.34 MW to 2.42 MW, are expected to be installed. 

MidAmerican will serve as its own general contractor for the Wind IX project, but the balance of plant (BOP) scope of work will be performed under an engineer-procure-construct (EPC) arrangement. MidAmerican will negotiate the EPC contract(s) for the BOP work, the contract for turbine supply, and the contract for purchase of the pad mounted transformers. Thus, MidAmerican will purchase the turbines, and contract with one or more contractors to perform the BOP work.

Under the proposed cost cap principle for this project, MidAmerican’s proposed ratemaking principles would apply to all new MidAmerican Wind IX capacity up to 162 MW (nameplate). The cumulative cost cap for Wind IX is $1.725m per MW (AFUDC included).

Other Oct. 10 testimony came from Neil Hammer, employed by MidAmerican Energy as Director, Market Assessment. He noted that Wind IX’s 162 MW would increase MidAmerican’s use of renewable nameplate capacity sources by 4.7% above the 3,477 MW of existing and under development renewable nameplate capacity (wind, hydro, and methane), including purchases on its system, to 40.6% of total MidAmerican nameplate generating capability.

Peter Schuster, employed by MidAmerican Energy as Supervisor, Electric System Planning, said about ongoing work with MISO on the interconnection of the Wind IX projects: “Power system analyses, which focus on the effect of the Wind IX sites on the local and regional transmission systems, identify any transmission facilities for  which improvements are required in order to maintain the adequacy and reliability of the existing transmission system once the Wind IX sites are interconnected to that system. A local area analysis will also be prepared if necessary by MidAmerican or the system owner to determine the impacts of the Wind IX sites on the lower voltage electric systems in the area of the Wind IX sites. I can assure the Board that MidAmerican will ensure that there are no detrimental impacts on the local area or regional transmission systems due to the Wind IX sites.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.