Wind Energy in Iowa

Chandler Mores
October 2, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017


Fig. 1: Wind turbines near Williams, Iowa. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When one mentions the state of Iowa, a fertile farmland roaming with rows of corns and soybeans comes to mind. What many people might not realize, however, is how abundant wind power has become in the state. Wind turbines have continually been populating the state, as seen in Fig. 1. There are multiple advantages to wind energy in Iowa, such as an increase in jobs, tax revenues, and an average of $20 million that Iowa farmers and landowners receive from hosting the wind turbines. As a non-polluting, non-greenhouse gas emitting energy source, wind energy is a viable solution that Iowa is taking by storm. [1]

Attracting Energy and Tech Companies

Iowa is the nation's leader with 37 percent of its electricity developed from wind energy, and it powers more than 1.85 million U.S. homes. [1] Just a few months ago, Apple announced its plan to build its next data center in Waukee, IA, due to the state's rewarding wind energy capabilities, and because Apple has pledged to operate the Waukee center on 100% renewable energy. [2] Even more funding and operations will soon go into Iowa wind energy, with MidAmerican Energy (based out of Des Moines, IA) and Alliant Energy putting approximately $5 billion into new projects. [1]

Benefits and Challenges

Since 1969, small, rural Iowa cities have suffered from dwindling populations, while the bigger cities have experienced a rise in population. [1] However, the recent wind turbines have established an incentive to stay and live in the rural communities, where more jobs have been created. MidAmerican Energy states that its 2,020 turbines in 23 Iowa counties have formed almost 4,000 jobs with $230 million in paychecks, a huge plus for rural citizens. [1]

Critics of wind turbines argue that these energy-producing devices are noisy and unattractive, and that Iowas regulations need to be revisited, as they often vary from county to county. Wind turbines can also cause deaths to those animals that roam the sky, and some dispute that the wind turbines are an unreasonable interference with their use and enjoyment of their property. [1] Once friendly farming neighbors now have rifts between them because one decided to put wind turbines on their property. MidAmerican Energy CEO Bill Fehrman acknowledges these concerns, but ultimately states that there is "no perfect way to make electricity", and that "all come with costs and environmental changes." [1]

Despite the arguments, it is clear that the benefits of wind energy in Iowa far outweigh the disadvantages. Wind turbines create job and financial stability in rural communities and renewable energy for the state. In Nevada, IA, wind turbines are placed near the sewage treatment plant for the local hospital's electricity needs, and in Spirit Lake, IA, wind turbines are in use to save school budgets. [3] Iowa's wind energy is an important source of renewable energy that will only continue to grow and prosper in the coming years.

© Chandler Mores. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] D. Eller and K. Hardy, "Is Wind Power Saving Rural Iowa or Wrecking It?," Des Moines Register, 20 Apr 17.

[2] M. Hiltzik, "Iowa's Handout to Apple Illustrates the Folly of Corporate Welfare Deals," Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug 17.

[3] P. Gipe, Wind Power: Renewable Energy for Home, Farm, and Business (Chelsea Green Pub. Co., 2004).