Tina Pothoff: A number of our wind projects right now, are located where they are at because we have the appropriate transmission to get the energy where it needs to go. There are certain portions of Iowa that we are not developing because we don't have the necessary transmission lines to send the power where it needs to go, so we are always looking at that. For example, if you look at the state of Iowa, some studies show that the northwest portion of the state is an excellent source of wind, but at the same time there's not quite as much transmission up there. So there's just a few things we need to look at, especially when we're placing wind turbines and wind projects. Not only transmission, but the second thing would be the community support; we obviously don't want to put wind turbines where people are not wanting them to be, so we are constantly holding community meetings with local elected officials, local government and also the land-owners to make sure we are appropriately filing the paper work, meeting with them, keeping them informed throughout the entire process. The other people that we really have to thank are our elected officials, because with their help we are really able to get some support to continue to look at renewable energy and the options that we have across the state of Iowa. Current governor, Terry Branstad has been very supportive of wind; he's gone places to talk about wind projects and really put Iowa on the map for this. Without that voice it's hard to have good promotion of the projects, so we're very thankful for that.
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States:
[Music] An historical moment for Siemens. For the first time in it's 163 years of company history a United States President visited a Siemens factory. Barack Obama stopped in at the turbine blade facility in Fort Madison, Iowa.
Barack Obama: Good Morning everybody! Ah! It's good to be- good to be back in Iowa. I have just been on an incredibly impressive tour of this facility and saw how these giant blades are created and they look even cooler up close. Just a few short years ago, this facility was dark, it was quiet- nothing was going on and today it's alive and humming with over 600 employees, almost two thirds of whom found themselves unemployed before they were here. What each of the employees of Siemens are involved with is helping stake America's claim on a clean energy future. The country that leads a clean energy economy will be the country that leads the 21st century global economy. We began early last year by making the largest investment in clean energy in our nation's history. It's an investment expected to create or save more than 700,000 jobs across America by the end of 2012. Jobs manufacturing next-generation batteries for next-generation vehicles. Jobs upgrading to a smarter, stronger power-grid. Jobs doubling America's capacity to generate renewable electricity from sources like the sun and the wind, just like you do here. If we pursue our full potential for wind energy and everything else goes right, wind could generate as much as 20% of America's electricity 20 years from now. [Applause] That's right, 20%.
This is what is possible in a clean energy economy and while it may not feel like it everyday when you punch in to all the folks who work here at Siemens, I want you to understand, you're making it possible, you're blazing a trail. You are showing America our future and someday our children and our children's children will look back at this factory, this moment and they will be proud of the generation that chose in a time of crisis to place it's bet on the future and to reopen factories and restart assembly lines and retrain workers. The generation that chose once again to step forward and meet the challenges of our time- that's what this represents, that's what you represent and we could not be prouder. So, thank you very much everybody.
God Bless you. God Bless the United States of America.
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Voice Over: Welcome to the Dream Green Series, with co-hosts Stuart Tanner and James Moore on solar-powered KRUU FM- Iowans creating a greener tomorrow, today. A journey of discovery across the state, featuring innovators, cutting-edge projects and communities leading the way to an energy independent and sustainable future. Visit our website at www.greeniowa.org .
James Moore: This is James Moore with Stuart Tanner for the Dream Green Series, from solar-powered KRUU FM in Fairfield, Iowa. We are going to be talking about wind today. We had a special program dedicated to the subject in the first half of the series with a man named Tom Wind, and it seemed pretty appropriate. We went to a small community wind farm and got up close and personal with these beautiful, big, very gracious, quite inspiring, towering wind-turbines. We didn't go up all the way to the top, but we did get inside one and looked at what they do up close and personal.
Today we have with us, on the line, the spokesperson for MidAmercican Energy. MidAmerican is a utility company here that services the Iowa area and has been really, really big in wind. Let's just say that 20% of their electricity for their portfolio is now coming from wind turbines. As we speak they are expanding with a big project that could bring them up to over 25% of their energy form the wind. We'll learn about that and other aspects of what the company is doing, but it is very interesting, because they have also been working with an Iowa manufacturing company out of Fort Madison- a company called Siemens- producing the turbines. And as Stuart and I have talked many times driving across this great state, going to Dubuque, Des Moines, Davenport or other places, to UNI or ISU, as we drive we see these big, long insect-wing-looking things that are the blades for the wind turbines- a lot of movement that way. So, we're excited to day to talk with Tina Pothoff about MidAmerican's approach, where they come from, what they're doing with a little bit about the history, a little bit where they're at and a little bit where they're going. Stuart, I'll turn it over to you to start with the first question.
Stuart Tanner: Yeah, Good Morning and thanks for talking to us today.
Tina Pothoff: Good Morning. Thanks for having me on.
ST: We really appreciate that. Obviously we've been looking into renewable energy and sustainability throughout the state of Iowa. Clearly MidAmerica has an important role as regards to the increase in the amount of renewable energy in the state. Perhaps you could just go through for us your profile with regards to energy generation. Of course people are very enthused by the idea of renewable energy and clean energy and so on, but of course there are fundamental realities about the generation of power, so it's good to get an idea of where we actually stand today. Perhaps you could give us a picture.
TP: Absolutely. MidAMerican Energy is number one in the United States in ownership of wind powered generation, among rate regulated utilities. Our wind projects in Iowa help maintain the state's status as second only to Texas, among states with the most wind power generation capacity. When it comes to our actual generation capacity, people always like to say, “Well, what's the breakdown of coal versus wind versus natural gas?” and our portfolio as it stands right now, is about 48% coal, 26% Wind, 19% Natural gas and 7% which would be in the form of wood, bio-mass or other. And these figures include net megawatts owned in operation as of December 31st, 2010. They also include our 2011 wind expansion which we're very excited to talk about. It's the largest wind expansion that we've gone through and it's taking place this year, expected to be completely finished by the end of the year- December 31st of 2011. We made the big announcement last year and we're just continuing to construct wind-turbines and wind-farms. There's three in particular across the state of Iowa that we're working on this year and that's probably why people are seeing a lot of trucks rolling across the state with the wind-turbine blades on them, many of which are coming from Fort Madison, Iowa at the Siemens manufacturing plant there.
ST: Well, yes one of the great things about Iowa, of course, is that there has been green jobs created. There are a number of manufacturing plants in Iowa; Thats something that we've been covering, obviously Siemens being one of them, Clipper Windpower being another. This is great news, it's a virtuous circle in terms of recycling investment through the state. When we talk to utilities companies they'll often talk about the need for constancy and provision of a base load, which is 24 hours a day, switch it on switch it off whenever you need it. Presumably therefore, you're in line with that view and still see a need for coal fired power stations, natural gas and nuclear going into the future, what are your plans as regards to those as well?
TP: Well we definitely like to have a diversified portfolio. As you know, wind generation doesn't run constantly. If you have a very windy day, you put your turbines at risk, if you run the wind turbines or if you have no wind then you're actually expelling more energy trying to run the wind turbine when there's no wind whatsoever in the area.
Actually, we're very excited about the future of wind and we're continuing to look into potential opportunities even into next year. Just to provide you some history about we got involved with these is MidAmerican's investment in wind energy actually followed former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack's goal for Iowa to become energy independent and to develop into a national leader in renewable energy. Governor Vilsack at the time challenged regulators, business professionals and utility companies in Iowa to work toward achieving 1000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010. His goal was later followed by former Iowa governor Chet Culver, who challenged the regulators, business professionals and utility companies of course, to add an additional 1015 megawatts of renewable enrgy to bring Iowa to 2015 megawatts by 2015. Basically what happened is that MidAmerican energy in December of 2009, we received approval from the Iowa utilities board to add a little over 1000 megawatts of wind generation prior to 2013. That was to enhance the companies balanced generation portfolio and of course to focus more of our efforts on renewable energy. We're proud to say that we're fulfilling a portion of that by launching and announcing this 593.4 megawatt expansion that's taking place in Cass, Adams and Adair counties during 2011. We're also expanding in to Marshall and Pocahontas counties. It is an exciting endeavor, we're excited to be a part of it. It's nice to see that a lot of people are really focusing on Iowa and it's true commitment to renewable energy.
JM: Well, let me just ask this Tina. In terms of breaking that down for people who may not quite get how many megawatts means what. What kind of capacity are we talking about increasing, in terms of how many homes it might be able to power?
TP: Well just putting this new wind expansion int o perspective. We're installing about 250 wind turbines in 2011 and all those wind turbines combined can power approximately 190,000 homes. So, about the size of Des Moines or so. So, this wind expansion project is really having an impact on what we we can produce here in Iowa and also how we can better the environment by producing clean, renewable energy.
ST: Something that we can certainly laud, applaud. It's such a virtuous thing to be generating renewable energy and to obviously be moving toward a goal of energy independence in this state. It's such a good thing for the state and for it's economics and I believe so far there's been about $5 billion worth of investment in wind in the state of Iowa. As you would know, Iowa is rated as one of the top ten states in terms of wind energy potential. I believe it's around 3670 megawatts being generated at the moment, but there's assessment that you could generate 570,000 [megawatts]. Obviously you'll never get to that point for various reasons, it just goes to show how much potential there is in the state. Certainly there's some reports that say that one of the difficulties is that there's a threshold you can reach as regards to the distribution of the energy and there needs to be maybe an upgrading or a rethink in terms of the transmission lines and infrastructure. Is that something that preoccupies MidAmerican at all?
TP: That is definitely something that we are constantly looking at. A number of our wind projects, right now are located where they are at is because we have the appropriate transmission to get the energy where it needs to go. There are certain portions of Iowa where we're not developing, because we don't have the necessary transmission lines to send the power where it needs to go. For example, if you look at the state of Iowa, some studies show that the northwest portion of the state is an excellent source of wind, but at the same time there's not quite as much transmission up there. So there's just a few things we need to look at, especially when we're placing wind turbines and wind projects. Not only transmission, but the second thing would be the community support; we obviously don't want to put wind turbines where people are not wanting them to be. So, we are constantly holding community meetings with local elected officials, local government and also the land-owners to make sure we are appropriately filing the paper work, meeting with them, keeping them informed throughout the entire process.
JM: Well that brings up a great area that I wanted to talk to you about as well and that is just in terms of local, state and federal support for this type of project- renewables in general. I would like to focus, because this series is focused on Iowa, what your experience has been that way. We'll talk about MidAmerican all over the world, we'll get to that, but first of all I'm wondering Tina if you could just give us, sort of the sense of the types of support that have been on that level that have made things more doable, more possible.
TP: Yeah, I can first of all say local communities. If we didn't have the support there, a lot of these projects wouldn't happen. There's a lot of wind projects taking place in that Adair area because the people there are so supportive of it. It does bring in an economic benefit to the community; for every 10-15 new wind turbines, there's one permanent wind maintenance or supervisor job that's created. So, there is some job creation with it and along with that, when these projects are going up, construction jobs are created, maintenance jobs, etc. when the projects are taking place, especially this year with the projects that are taking place across town.
The other people that we really have to thank are our elected officials, because with their help we are really able to get some support to continue to look at renewable energy and the options that we have across the state of Iowa. Current governor, Terry Branstad has been very supportive of wind; he's gone many places to talk about wind projects and really put Iowa on the map for this. Without that voice it's hard to have good promotion of the projects, so we're very thankful for that.
ST: Yeah, I also wanted to sort of delve into the area of state and federal support. Talking about the federal level, there's the production tax credits and I know that BP have just, they want to invest $800 million in a project in Kansas next year, but they are sort of concerned about the potential end of the production tax credits which are very supportive to putting up wind turbines. Again, in California they're rushing to put these wind turbine farms up in time so that they still these production tax credit. What's the view of MidAmerican on the importance of that federal support?
TP: It is definitely necessary for these projects to go up. Without the renewable energy tax credit there would be more problems on the way, but with those tax credits it simply makes good economic sense for our customers and that ultimately is who we're supporting and pleasing. So, with those renewable energy tax credits we are able to proceed forward with these larger renewable energy projects.
ST: Looking forward into the future, if you take in the big picture the energy independence of America, there are those who argue that for every dollar you spend supporting generation of renewable energy or energy independence, of course that can be a mixed portfolio, that recycles money back through America. I believe it's something $400-500 billion is spent every year going abroad on importing energy. Obviously fuel is it's own thing and a particular challenge as we know. What about the idea that in order to speed this process up the federal government could support infrastructure projects like the grid? And this has been talked about at the highest political level- President Obama himself and therefore speed this process up in the sense that it creates jobs, it recycles money through the local economy through the states and so on and obviously it's building toward greater energy independence.
TP: We are seeing all three of those things like you said, the job support, the energy independence when it comes to renewable energy and another thing that we want people to understand is that the EPA and the federal government is starting to crack down a little bit more on some environmental regulations, so we are able to increase our portfolio with renewable energy generation. In the long run it will have less of an economic impact on our customers when it come to prices or costs and it really does make a difference.
ST: Well, thanks for that. Yes on the bigger picture I know, without necessarily getting political about it, support for fundamental infrastructure can clearly have a great economic benefit, even though it's a tricky thing at the moment as we all know. Just on the EPA, I mean we were at another utility company's sort of general meeting and there were certainly people there sort of arguing against the clean air bill and there's very much an attitude of “we don't want the government over regulating and interfering and so on.” On the other hand, clearly without those things I don't suppose we would imagine there would be a great deal of progress in terms of improving levels of pollution without those regulations. What's MidAmerican's view on things like the Clean Air Act or bill and that kind of regulation?
TP: Well, one of our core values is environmental respect and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to take care of the environment, to make sure we're giving back to the environment, putting things back the way that they were and doing everything we can in that area. We just want to make sure we're involved in the conversations and we have had some people that have testified in front of congress about things that are working for our company, but also some things that may not work. For example, when it comes to EPA regulations. So, we just want to make sure we're involved with those conversations, but when it comes to making sure that our customers have clean air, clean water we are very supportive of that.
JM: In this regard you've been able to keep your rates steady through all this expansion over the last I think 5, 6, 7 years. How has that happened?
TP: Well, you know since 1995 we haven't had a rate increase with our customers and we've been able to keep base rates stable for our customers. We're very proud of that. Going into the future of course is something that we look at on a regular basis to make sure that that is something that we can continue to do. We've been very proud of the fact that since 1995, customers have not seen an increase in their base rate and I think a lot of it comes down to appropriate planning, planning ahead and doing it the right way and also making sure that when we have good opportunities like using renewable energy tax credits to help put up some of these wind farms, our customers are also benefiting from those 'good deals' if you will and we're able to assist our customers in that way.
JM: One other area I wanted to ask about- I know in your worldwide portfolio and in general in your renewables portfolio you mention geothermal. Always interested in that, it just seems like such- if you can start from ground level with that, it just makes so much sense. Where is MidAmerican at in terms of geothermal?
TP: The geothermal facilities- and MidAmerican, when you say that it's not necessarily MidAmerican Energy, but it's one of our other businesses that fall underneath the MidAmerican Energy holdings company. There's a company that's kind of a sister company to us, if you will that's called CalEnergy U.S. They're actually based in California; they do a lot of work with geothermal energy and it's been quite successful there and they're actually looking at potentially expanding as well with additional geothermal facilities. So, those are other avenues, like I said, when we have a generation portfolio that's diversified. We truly believe in that, because we think that that's the best way to go.
JM: It seems that would be good economic advice in general- diversified portfolios. But let me ask this: You bring up the sister company and let's just take one minute here and talk about the wide scope, the full lens of MidAmerican. Just give us a sense of that and how big the company is and where it's doing business, just so we get kind of a picture there.
TP: Sure, just to break it down, MidAmerican Energy company- the company I work for, we're Iowa's largest energy company. We provide electric service to 729,000 customers and natural gas service to 709,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. We also have, like I said, other businesses that fall underneath the holdings company just like us. Another business is PacifiCorp. They're located out west, primarily in the rocky mountain area. We also have Rocky Mountain Power and then we also have some pipelines that are businesses with us too. Kern River Gas Transmission Company and Northern Natural Gas Company too.
ST: Yeah that's quite obviously significant and impressive. I just wanted to deal with an issue that has risen obviously in Iowa and seems slightly, you could say, controversial and thats the nuclear power bill. I just wondered what the position of MidAmerican is as regards to support for the building of a new nuclear power station in Iowa.
TP: Well, as you know, this past legislative session, we were supportive of looking into a nuclear facility and “looking into a nuclear facility”, I know there were some, I guess some misnomers out there that we were going to be building one and that wasn't the case. We just wanted to continue doing research into one to see if it made economic sense for our customers. So, that is something that we still believe in. It's something that we would still like to look into and this last legislative session it kind of died in a session. So, we'll just continue to see if there might be interest in the future.
ST: And how do the economics shape up? Because from my understanding they're really tough to make work economically, obviously once you have them and they're generating energy it's very economic energy, but they're extremely expensive to build and one of the problems is the decommissioning when they're done and it's very often the tax payer thats picking up that bill. So, what is the economic argument do you think?
TP: Well, along with wind projects, there is the construction aspect where jobs are created. The other thing is if there are additional fines that are imposed on people that are utilizing coal or other forms of energy that the federal government is looking at, that in the long run may turn out to be more expensive than potentially looking into a nuclear power facility. So, I think, you know, to take all those things in consideration is something that definitely needs to be looked in the future as we move forward. To impose a fine- if a company is receiving a massive fine because of the use of coal, then that is something that, you know, we're trying to look for in the future to make sure we don't have to pass those costs on to our customer.
JM: And of course one other aspect with the nuclear equation is the insurance part of it and this is an area some people, I mean the president seems to be behind, although when you talk anything to do with spending these days it seems like one of those things from a bygone era. The political waves come and go. I'm really proud, from my perspective we've learned a lot traveling around the state. The wind growth here, we spoke with some of the early state legislators that put the ball in motion, it was Terry Branstad in his first round as governor where that first kind of bill happened and for whatever reason you know, to be competing with Texas I think per capita we may even be ahead of Texas although I'm sure a lot of things are developing everyday in this arena, but to be up there with this level of electric production from the wind is really a remarkable achievement. I think it's great that you are consolidating and moving ahead, this is another big project that's going on that we spoke about earlier. I'm wondering Tina if you could just give sort of a perspective, working in Iowa, dealing with wind turbine manufacturers here like Siemens, that must feel pretty good as well.
TP: Yes, we always like to keep as much production close to home as possible and Siemens, just to provide you a little bit of background with them, they have a 600,000 square foot wind turbine blade manufacturing factory that's located in Fort Madison, Iowa. So, as we talked about before when people see a lot of those trucks driving down the street with the big wind turbine blades on them, more than likely they might be coming from that Fort Madison facility. The company has operated the Fort Madison manufacturing plant for five years and is the largest employer in Fort Madison with more than 700 people in green collar jobs at that facility. So, to be a part of that, to be a part of making sure that we're bringing renewable energy to Iowa, those construction jobs, long term maintenance jobs, annual payments to land owners and other economic benefits to Iowans and their communities. We're pretty proud of that and we're going to continue to listen to our customers and make sure that we're doing the best that we can in renewable energy.
JM: Fantastic. I'm Wondering if there's anything we've left out that you would like to include. We do appreciate you spending a few minutes with us. Anything else we've left out that you would like to include?
TP: Well, you know, a couple of fun facts. Everyone always wants to know how long those blades going down the highway really are. We always like to say, since we're in football season, it's about half as long as a football field. So, you have a little nugget of information in your pocket and maybe you can share some information the next time you're at a football game.
ST: One of the things, as we've gone around a lot places people have raised the point that, you know, a lot of these wind projects are large scale affairs and maybe things could be changed so that smaller scale projects could be viable for local communities or even a smaller city- Fairfield, for instance or others- so that they could be viable for them. Obviously, there are structural challenges to that. What's MidAmerican's view on that- in sort of being flexible as regards to potential smaller scale projects that are run from a more local level.
TP: We support it. There's actually even some wind turbines that have been put up on people's personal property and they say, “Okay, if I'm generating extra power is there a possibility I might be able to put that onto the grid? And can you help me with that?” and that is something we can talk to people about. So, when it comes to future planning, are people wanting to put a smaller wind turbine in their company or even at their home. We talk to people about that on almost a daily basis, but they can find out more information at www.midamericanenergy.com, there's actually a sheet that they can fill out, an online form and they can submit their question and someone will get back in contact with them about that.
ST: What is it at the moment? I mean people talk about the feed in rates that they get and quite often they're wholesale rates rather than the retail price of the energy. How does it work with MidAmerican?
TP: Well, I don't have that information with me right now, but like I said if someone wanted to contact us they could definitely do that and we would be more than happy to discuss it with them.
JM: I just want to say thanks again for spending some time with us, sharing what your company is doing in this arena and we certainly want to say, well for this segment we're calling it wind in the sales S-A-L-E-S. We would conclude by saying obviously this has to be working if you're expanding and if you're seeing good results. I'm just wondering, in terms of the sort of other aspect of getting involved with renewables is sometimes- well, I mean we're a solar powered radio station, one of only 15 in the country. We were featured in a trade publication for radio that went all over the world with a full page on this story. The community put it together and it's enough to keep our tower up, we're a small station and so if it's, you know, 50,000 watts, it takes that much more power, but we're able to do this and it's interesting it has brought a lot of -if good will id the word, I'm not sure, but another aspect different than just the economic sense. Is there anything you could talk about that?
TP: Absolutely. Actually our main focus this year at the Iowa State Fair was on solar power. So, I'm happy to hear, I know we spoke earlier about your radio station being solar powered and we think it's great. One of the things that we recently installed at our vistior's center was a 12 panel solar array that can generate 3.78 kilowatts to help run the buildings electrical system throughout the year. We're very supportive of solar energy, even including showing people different displays that might work in there home. That was kind of the feature and the focus of this years Iowa State Fair and even if you go to the fair on Exposition Hill, the Iowa State Fairgrounds itself now has solar powered path lighting that illuminates new walking paths. They have solar powered paving lights that highlight the plaza area and parts of the walking paths and they even have solar powered bench park seats that have thin film solar technology to drive cooling fans for visitors at the Iowa State Fair. So, that's starting to catch on and we are seeing it being installed across the state.
ST: Yeah, thats fantastic, again there are some exciting things going on in the state of Iowa and that's actually one of the reasons why we did this series is to highlight all of the good things that are going on particularly with an emphasis on renewable energy and a fundamental move toward sustainability and energy and in other resources. I just wanted to thank you Tina for talking to us today. It's really been very useful to hear your points of view and to have the opportunity to talk to MidAmerican, who's playing such a leading role in the state of Iowa for energy provision and also the provision of renewable energy. So, we really appreciate that and I thank you very much from the Dream Green Series. I just wanted to finish by asking you what you're hopes are for the future. What is your vision for Iowa going forward? Where do you think we'll be in about 5-10 years?
TP: Well, I can tell you right now, we're still continuing to look at potential opportunities for wind and wind expansion projects. We'll be keeping our customers posted within the next year, because like I said in December of 2009 we received approval from the Iowa utilities board to add up to a little more than 1000 megawatts of wind generation and this year we''re adding a little close to 600 megawatts for our expansion, so really we're going to be evaluating what we plan on doing with the remaining 400 or so megawatts, but we look forward to working with our customers and working with local businesses and lawmakers to make those things happen in the state.
JM: Well, that's MidAmerican Energy spokesperson Tina Pothoff. We have really appreciated the time and as we say to most folks that we talk to on this series, keep up the good work. We'll be back in just a moment. You're listen to solar powered KRUU FM, The Dream Green Series with Stuart Tanner and James Moore. Thank you very much Tina.
TP: Thank you.
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JM: We are here, live in the studio for a change. We've done mostly prerecorded shows, traveling around the state, hither and yon, as it were. From Dubuque, Des Moines, Daven port and all points in between, but we wanted to as we wind down to our final show next week, where we'll be pulling conclusions from many of the visits that we've had. I also wanted to say, interesting words from President Obama, visiting Iowa- Iowa holding a special pace in his heart, certainly for what he was able to accomplish here in the primary that lead him onwards, but also in terms of wind. We'll talk about these aspects. We had Tina, a spokesperson for MidAmerican, talking about their relationship with Siemens, a manufacturer that is actually located- a worldwide company, located in Fort Madison with 600-700 workers there. A project going on throughout most of this year. While we were putting this show together we were hoping to speak with Clipper as well, but very interesting news from Clipper Windpower, that they've had some downsizing, right as this show is taking place. So, it makes for an interesting mix. We know that the Solyndra-half billion dollar episode, loans and the business going bankrupt. Just some interesting times all the way around, but I'm talking way too much when I've got my great and wonderful co-host, Stuart Tanner sitting right by my side, almost. Stuart, great to see you.
ST: Yeah, hi James. It was a very interesting interview with Tina I thought- with MidAmerican. Certainly wanted them as part of the picture for the Dream Green Series and some very interesting points were raised during that conversation. I think that, you know, the argument, as the series is going on is developing as well and events are moving on the ground as indeed they always do. Yes, this week we had the news from Clipper Windpower that they are downsizing their company and they are losing about 90 people out of a 400 work force. They are one of the three wind turbine manufacturers based in Iowa and we've talked about Siemens as well and there is a Spanish company, [Elevadores GOIAN] I think and basically the news obviously is not too good and it comes on the heels of Solyndra. So, you know, the green jobs area, we've talked about the recycling of money through the state and how that can create green jobs and many people have made this point. But we're at a time when the support for the renewable energy and things like tax production credits are obviously crucial to these industries. Now, clearly all of these companies are basically in a market where they are competing with each other and of course, at any given time you could have one company that has a bit of a dip whilst another has a rise. Certainly, this Siemens company seems to be doing very well in Iowa, so these things are possible. But, on the broader picture it may be the case that there is requirement for a little bit more certainty about the continuation of the tax production credits. Certainly BP, as was mentioned earlier, raised that in regard to their planned $800 million investment in a wind turbine farm. So, these things are all in play. I mean, I think it would be useful to sort of have a bit of a summary, because one thing to remember is that MidAmerican along with Alliant and so on, they still produce a lot of their power from coal and we were looking into that were getting into that, into the nitty gritty of that with Tina. It's obviously not something those companies want to emphasize, because of the research that has come out that does show that the particulates from coal-fired stations and the heavy metals, mercury and lead do lead to health problems, do get onto the ground and obviously they are pollutants that are not desirable.
JM: It is interesting, I just want to throw in- it is interesting to note Stuart, while we are discussing this, at the same time we have the President who has backed off of the more restrictive approach to taking coal to task with the new elements that had been in line there, that would have possibly caused 20 coal plants to be shut down for those standards. So, it's a little bit of a mixed signal and certainly in this- already it seems that in this season upon us with election nearing, there does seem to be sort of, a real cry for the old kind of energy.
ST: Yeah, there is and MidAmerican played a little bit of a role in that themselves. Obviously they are moving more towards wind energy, renewable energy and the percentage of energy coming from coal, both for them and Alliant, has gone down over recent years as they have increased their renewable portfolio, which is great stuff. But, they do argue that they don't want their clean air standards being raised by the EPA and putting pressure on them to conform to that and I believe earlier in the year they were at summit committee on environment and public works that had a hearing on the Clean Air Act and public health to discuss the environmental protection agency's proposal to reduce mercury, lead and other toxic air pollution from power plants and one witness from MidAmerican was making the case that, you know, if you impose these, it's too fast a timetable; the result of this could be rate hikes, increases in prices for electricity that we provide to our customers and possibly losses of jobs. Now, that's not the position of other utility companies, who certainly have made it known that they are not opposed to these new standards and in fact don't see it as necessarily compromising jobs and potentially being good for jobs, one energy group have stated. So, you know, there is division there, but what you can see at play is that- we saw it when we went to the meeting at access where they were arguing there for “let's not have further restrictions placed in the way of coal fired stations” because they want to keep those options there. They are not at present necessarily aligned or- you know MidAmerican planning to build a coal fire station, what they are planning in fact- and we can move on to this- is obviously they have argued, MidAmerican have argued to build a small nuclear power station.
JM: Well again, what Tina was saying- and again maybe this is soft tracking it- that they don't have a plan, they do want to look at the possibilities and it was interesting, because by the way this where it gets back to the whole EPA standards testing, all that, because what she was saying is to do a cost-analysis about how much it may cost to clean up coal etc, etc, versus those costs that you brought up. I mean, you could say in a way those are the big boys, right? You get a lot of energy in a hurry, as you mentioned, when they are up and running, but the cost, at what cost? Bit, also, you see the green industry, the green movement, as it were, now sort of in an interesting state with some question marks there. I think that by the same token, you look at a company like MidAmerican, that will be 25% beyond what the president was even calling last year, as a company beyond what he was hoping for the whole country. So, there is progress and it's hard to think- it's not a black and white world, but to me I just- you hope the equation is moving in a certain direction. I mean, that's what we're highlighting and speaking of that, maybe we should talk just a little bit about Siemens, right? They expanded from 300,000 square feet to 600,000, obviously they are employed through this year. We'll see, I guess how things look going forward, but this is- these things are even- when government is kind of doing this kind of turbo-charged attempt to move an industry, it is fraught, as the president even mentioned today, there will be mistakes, it may not work, it may not work, it's hard to catch up. When you see what China is doing- billions of dollars and billions of dollars and working so strongly there, how possible is it?
ST: Well, that's very interesting. To me, the game is this basically: If the federal government is not going to pump money into supporting a push toward renewable energy to a sufficient degree, one of the key things there is support for infrastructure and a grid, because as we know the current wind farms are placed in areas where there is a grid for them. There are plenty of areas where they could be, where there isn't the infrastructure. Are the utility companies going to take on that cost? Well, of course they would much prefer it if there was support for a push for increasing the quality and depth and depth and range of the grid. That is a key thing that would unleash the potential of having a lot more wind farms and you would need at least five times what we're currently producing in Iowa, I believe, to get anywhere close to the 20% target for the country that President Obama has been talking about. Now, if you are not doing that, then of course the utility companies are going to say, “Well in that case, we want to keep these options of natural gas fired stations and nuclear power and don't hit us too hard on the coal either, by the way, because our duty is to provide constant energy at a reasonable price to our customers.” And of course MidAmerican and others have been doing a pretty good job of that in Iowa with very few if any rate increases for quite a while. So, they want to be able to continue to do that. Now, once you start talking about obviously nuclear power and potentially even natural controversy comes into the picture, particularly with nuclear power, but also with natural gas, especially if you're accessing it via fracking and so on. The other essential part of the argument is, what is the real cost? You see, as we have gone on this journey, as we've talked to people, people want to say, “Well, let's really cost out a nuclear power station. Let's really cost out a coal-fired station, if you want to build a new one. You've got to look at the environmental impact; you've got to cost that in.” That isn't being costed in. The health effects are not being costed in. The degradation of the environment is not being costed in. What you do with spent nuclear fuel is not really being costed in. Incidentally, that's partly why MidAmerican, when they were putting this through the legislation in Iowa state, they wanted to be able to get through to able to charge the customers the cost of the process of trying to build- getting approval for a nuclear power station, in other words, transfer a risk a bit to their customers and of course that didn't go down down too well.
JM: Indeed and these are exactly the types of things we will be talking about in our final show, looking at the whole range of all this. I mean, obviously we're doing this with respect to wind. I did want to mention, just in terms of this Siemens operation, you know, this is a group- a company, employing 12,000 people in the energy sector. They are the number three leader in onshore wind in the U.S., number one in offshore. They've invested more than a $100 million in wind turbine manufacturing in the U.S. They had one employee in December 2004- more that 1000 in the U.S. Today. As we mentioned they have the Fort Madison facility, a place that's in Houston, Texas- another big wind state. They are working on one in Kansas, but I wanted to just mention a few other things. In 2008 they were making 16 blades a week. As of April 2010, when we heard the president speaking at the onset of the program, they were up to 36 blades a week. 65% of the employees were former employees of larger companies in the area that had closed or downsized, including Motorola and Bluebird District Manufacturing, GE and other companies. The chamber of Commerce says there's a job multiplier of 1.59 there, so they say more than 350 indirect jobs have been created. More than 82% of the direct materials for the blades are procured in the U.S.- 35% in the Midwest. So, this is some pretty interesting stuff. It's a big company obviously. They're talking about- Siemens in the U.S.A. reported revenue of- this might be from 2009- $21.3 Billion. As I mentioned, employing 64,000 people throughout the world. In their global green portfolio, generating some $34 billion in revenues. So, I just wanted to mention that and also Stuart, it's going to be interesting times, I think, for many sectors with the economy the way it is with what we see happening in Europe. I wonder how Germany for instance, will hold up as well with Italy being downgraded and so forth, how many industries will fair, but it does seem like the competitive advantage for solar for instance, with Germany jumping on that early does give them and edge there, wouldn't you say?
ST: Well the thing is about Germany -we mentioned this as regards to China- is they have a manufacturing economy so, yeah, of course they will be affected by any downturn throughout Europe. But, one thing to remember is that most of the emerging market sin the world and the emerging countries- their economies are growing and they're growing quite well in fact. It's actually, in a way this is a problem that has arisen within the top 10-12-20 countries- the wealthiest countries and that was because we went into super-charged growth, fueled by super-charged debt and now, you know, we're having to pay the piper and we've talked about that before. But, getting back to, you know, our subject, Germany is planning to close it's nuclear power stations and people say, “That's impractical, how can they do it?” Well, they can do it because they already have a mechanism that is sponsoring and improving their wind generation and solar power to a significant degree, so they can just ramp that up and it puts them ahead of the game in terms of renewable energy, but it also puts them ahead of the game in technology. One point to make, today particularly, is clearly America excels in high technology still and in adding that kind of content to goods and services and it's not the case that America can't compete with that. I mean, obviously I think we would like to mention Apple and Steve Jobs and obviously it's a great loss to the world that he has passed away and we wish all his family well at this time and it's been an outpouring of appreciation and real respect and admiration fro Steve Jobs and what he achieved, which was phenomenal really. It's just an incredible thing that is appreciated right round the world as transformational in people's lives and he has lead and others are following. America can do that; it can be a power house of innovation. I don't think it needs to necessarily bow down and get whacked by state capitalism from China.
JM: Well put. We are going to close out here with a little bit of music. We want to thank all the listeners who have been traveling with us on this journey of discovery. We've had a really wonderful, privileged to be traveling to so many great areas, so many schools, so many companies, so many communities who are looking seriously at what is possible. To me, if you want to talk about a revolution, the revolution comes from right below your feet, where you're standing and to see communities that are able to put these practices in, ask for more, whether it's pushing the utility companies or working on their own to create change in this positive direction. I just think, not to lose sight of that in the ups and downs- the market with always go up and down, the political situation will go up and down. This is America, we've gone back and forth and up and down and we do that, but in the midst of that the progress that is made- the solar panels that we put up in 2009, bringing that electricity day after day, straight from the sun. If you are able to get to these points, there's something that, you know- that works and we were talking just before we went on air about this program being “Wind in the SALES” talking about the growth and so forth. We said wind- we didn't say whether it was tail wind or head wind. It looks like, right now, there's a little bit of turbulence. We're going to go to a Dragon Fly album- Arthur Leland. We'll be back to close out in just a few minutes. This is James Moore with Stuart Tanner- Dream Green Series.
[Music by Arthur Leland]
JM: Ah, that's beautiful. Arthur Leland, from the album Dragon Fly. Great stuff. We brought you a taste of some great music as part of this series all the way along. We'll remind you next week, our final show we'll be doing some concluding and don't forget this whole series was made with the idea that it will be offered for schools. We have some radio stations interested in playing the whole series already, but also city administrators libraries as a reference for this whole area, so that's something just to remember and I want to remind you we'll be back next week, right here. You can go to www.greeniowa.org and check out the journey anytime right there.
Voiceover: Produced by Stuart Tanner and James Moore at solar-powered KRUU 100.1FM in Fairfield, Iowa, online at www.kruufm.com This series is funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence and nearly 70 individuals, companies and organizations. For a list of sponsors, visit our website at www.greeniowa.org Archives available for download under creative commons license. Music from Zila and Arthur Leland.
[Dream Green Theme]