Iowa may conjure up images of sweeping cornfields dotted with farms, but this Midwestern state has been at the forefront of wind energy technology since 1983, when it became the first state to enact a renewable-energy mandate, requiring local investor-owned utilities to use wind or solar sources for power generation. In 2017, Iowa generated 37 percent of its electricity from wind, the largest share nationwide.
GE Renewable Energy will now add to the state’s remarkable base of renewables by helping local utility Alliant Energy erect 190 turbines at two new sites — Upland Prairie in the state’s northwest corner and English Farms further southeast — to contribute additional 470 megawatts to Iowa’s renewables capacity, enough power to supply the equivalent of 180,000 American homes.
Those two new projects will also propel GE Renewable Energy to break a record of its own: The business unit’s onshore wind capacity in North America now exceeds 40 gigawatts. Its 25,000-plus turbines now have the capacity to power the equivalent of 11 million U.S. homes.
Worldwide, the stats are even more impressive. GE Renewable Energy has more than 60,000 MW of onshore wind turbines installed across the globe — enough to theoretically supply all of Indonesia.
Such expansive numbers are not surprising considering that, since entering wind energy 15 years ago, GE Renewable Energy has provided turbines for some of the largest sites in the United States, including the 845 MW Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon and the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center and Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm in Texas. The company also supplied five 6 MW turbines for America’s first offshore wind farm near Block Island, Rhode Island.
GE’s own contributions speak to a larger truth: Wind is blowing up. In the last decade, U.S. wind capacity has tripled to 54,000 wind turbines with a combined capacity of nearly 90,000 MW housed in 41 states, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. Wind power is now the largest source of renewable generating capacity in the U.S., according to the American Wind Energy Association.
To push this renewable source even further, companies like GE are figuring out how to harness the wind’s power on calmer days. At the AWEA Windpower Conference in Chicago this May, GE Renewable Energy Chief Commercial Officer Andres Isaza laid out various storage options, such as batteries or hydro pumped storage, to move the grid toward an even higher percentage of renewable energy.
GE technology is also helping make wind-power production more efficient. In addition to turbines with 116-meter blades, farms operators can use GE’s newer 2.5 MW generators with blades spanning 127 meters, which make it easier for lighter wind to turn them and keep producing power. Even more noteworthy, areas without much wind — such as Turkey, Germany or even Chile — can utilize wind power with GE’s 4.8-158 MW onshore turbine, sporting a 158-meter rotor.
And when it comes to wisdom of renewable energy, there’s no telling how far those winds can carry us.