By: Chet Culver, Iowa Governor Issue: Energy & The Environment Section: Jewel Of Collaboration

The Nation’s Capitol for Renewable Energy Careers

Iowa Most Americans recognize that Iowa is “first in the nation” in the presidential selection process. But many are unaware of our state’s leadership role in renewable energy.

A new vision of the 21st century is taking shape in Iowa. We are building on our strengths in education, agriculture and manufacturing to literally help Iowa fuel the world and fuel our economy. Combining our leadership in biofuels with our wind energy generation, Iowa is the nation’s undisputed leader in renewable energy industries. Today, the state of Iowa exports more energy than it consumes. And we’ve enacted legislation to help Iowa achieve energy security by the year 2025.

The state of Iowa has invested heavily in the renewable energy industry by creating the $100 million Iowa Power Fund to attract cutting edge renewable energy research and development in the state and the $500 million Iowa Values Fund to offer businesses financial and technical assistance.

A variety of state initiatives are stimulating development of this 21st century economy, including programs focused on creating a pipeline of workers who will take the industry to the next level. Our investments in innovation and education will help Iowa retain its leadership position in renewable energy for years to come.

Iowa’s booming wind industry ranks first in the nation in the total percentage of power supplied by wind and second in the nation in installed wind energy output. 2,000 wind turbines stand tall on the landscape, capable of producing enough electricity to power approximately 580,000 homes each year. Iowa has proven to be the ideal location for both operating wind farms and manufacturing the turbines themselves. Our leadership and location in the epicenter of wind power development in the United States provide a solid foundation for this industry’s success.


As a result, ten companies have located North American manufacturing, repairing and financing of wind generation equipment in the state of Iowa to put them within reach of the growing wind energy market. Clipper Windpower, John Deere Wind Energy, Siemens Power Generation Wind Power, Acciona Energy North America, TPI Composites, Sector 5 Technologies, Heartland Energy Systems, Trinity Structural Towers, Generation Repair and Service, and Elevadores Goian have all located facilities here and over 200 existing Iowa manufacturers are now in the turbine supply chain.

Key to this growth is Iowa’s access to efficient transportation connections that provide opportunities for shipping heavy equipment. Wind energy equipment is growing larger in size as higher output units are developed and manufactured. Iowa has worked very closely with turbine manufacturers and component suppliers to ensure that this equipment can be transported across Iowa without issue. Iowa’s major railroads and our Mississippi River gives businesses even more options for easy and affordable transportation.

Rail access has proved critical for Siemens of Denmark at their plant in Fort Madison where the company produces giant wind turbine blades. Each blade is 147.6 feet long and weighs 11 tons - as much as three Cadillac Escalades.

Massive turbine-generating units assembled at the Clipper Windpower plant in Cedar Rapids weigh about 140 tons and are being shipped in truckloads as far away as New York, using interstate highways.

Acciona Energy is producing its 1.5 megawatt turbines at its facility in West Branch. Later, when the development work is completed, Acciona will be producing larger three megawatt turbines. Costs of research and development are lower for companies in Iowa because of tax credits that the state extends for qualified research and development activities.

Leading in Biofuels

Iowa has been the leader in biofuels for several reasons, beginning with the fact that Iowa is the leading producer of corn and soybeans. The state has also provided a series of incentives to get new refineries off of the ground. Iowa farmers quickly seized opportunities to add value to their crops by investing millions from their own equity in the new refineries.

As a result, Iowa ranks first in the nation in the production of ethanol, E-85, biodiesel and biomass, supplying nearly one-third of the nation’s ethanol and one-fourth of the nation’s biodiesel fuel.

According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), Iowa has 38 ethanol refineries in operation with an annual capacity of 3 billion gallons. There are five ethanol refineries under construction adding an additional 700 million gallons of capacity.

Biofuel’s Impact on Iowa

Ethanol and biodiesel producers add substantial value to agricultural commodities produced in Iowa and make a significant contribution to the Iowa economy. Based on the size of the biofuels industry at the close of 2008 according to IRFA, ethanol and biodiesel:

Adds nearly $12 billion, or about 9 percent, to Iowa GDP

Generates $2.8 billion of household income for Iowa households

Supports nearly 83,000 jobs through the entire Iowa economy (or 5.4% of private, non-farm employment), and

Generates $576 million in state tax revenue.

POET, the company developing the first commercial-scale plant to produce cellulosic ethanol in Iowa, has just successfully tested production of ethanol from corn cobs. Jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, POET is retrofitting a $200 million plant in Emmetsburg that will use both corn cobs and corn fiber as raw materials for biofuels. These innovations will bring greater efficiency to ethanol production by increasing the amount of fuel that can be extracted from the nation’s corn crop.

Investing in Innovation

The POET project is the type of alternative fuels advancement that is the focus of Iowa’s economic development efforts. To ensure continuous biofuels innovation, Iowa has created the Iowa Power Fund to expand research into new sources and processes for renewable energy. This four year $100 million initiative will help to develop renewable power technologies and jobs of the 21st century, as well as encourage better approaches to energy efficiency. The fund will also allow us to lead in entrepreneurship, commercialization and small business development related to these advances. The Fund awarded $14.75 million to the POET Project Liberty because of its potential to have a positive impact on the biofuels industry as a whole.

Biodiesel is another clean-burning, biodegradable, alternative fuel produced from vegetable oils and animal fats. Iowa is the leading producer of biodiesel. Iowa has 14 biodiesel refineries with the capacity to produce over 317 million gallons annually. Two biodiesel refineries under construction or expansion will add 35 million gallons of annual capacity. Additional renewable fuels projects are under development.

Investing in Careers and Education

Iowa is a national leader in creating high-paying renewable energy careers.

With the dramatic expansion of renewable energy opportunities over the last few years, Iowa’s community colleges are heeding the call to provide the skills for tomorrow’s workforce. Whether companies need workers with special technology skills or a solid grasp of basic science, Iowa’s exceptional network of 15 community colleges act as a valuable resource and partner for the business community.

Industry-driven programs such as the Iowa Bioprocess Training Center in Eddyville is the only center in the nation that is designed specifically to meet the biotechnology training needs of the value-added agriculture and bioprocessing industries. Special features of the Iowa Bioprocess Training Center include a fully functional fermentation pilot plant/training laboratory, a process control training laboratory, a bioprocess training laboratory, a video classroom, and virtual reality software simulating a fermentation plant for training purposes.

The state-of-the-art educational facility operated by Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa houses an expanded two-year credit program in Bioprocess Technology, with training courses on ethanol fermentation, biodiesel, genetic engineering and fermentation, and advanced fermentation. Graduate-credit courses include genetic engineering, biotechnology and bioethics, renewable fuels and fermentation.

The renewable energy technology curriculum at the Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls includes a strong foundation in the sciences and adds specific education and hands-on laboratory training for a thorough understanding of ethanol and biodiesel processes.

Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville offers a two-year wind energy and turbine technology operation and maintenance program to help meet the growing demand for skilled technicians who can install, maintain and service modern wind turbines. More than 100 new students will enter the program in the fall of 2009.

The Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND) is a collaboration between Iowa’s three Regents institutions, 5 of the 15 community colleges, state and local governments and industry representatives. IAWIND was created to support the State of Iowa in its efforts to continue to attract and nurture wind energy and related industries. The combination of supportive renewable energy policies, logistic and supply chain efficiencies, competitive business climate and heritage of manufacturing excellence has led to an active and growing wind energy industry in Iowa and IAWIND is working to support each of these elements.

Western Iowa voters recently approved an $18 million bond for Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. The bond will assist in paying for a new bioscience center, which will house a renewable-fuels quality-testing laboratory and will be the forefront of job training in the renewable-fuels industry.

In addition to the tremendous commitment of the community colleges throughout the state, our great state universities transform undergraduates into the highly qualified scientists and engineers needed at the highest level of the renewable fuels industry.

Smart Careers

The Iowa Careers Consortium is a unique public-private partnership created to meet Iowa’s growing need for highly skilled employees. It attracts qualified, skilled workers to Iowa by raising the awareness of the progressive, innovative businesses that are creating quality career opportunities. The Consortium brings together Iowa businesses, communities, educational institutions, professional associations, Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Department of Economic Development to provide our state’s companies with trained and skilled workers.

To learn more about renewable energy careers in Iowa, visit or call the Iowa Department of Economic Development at 800.245.IOWA.