Unexpectedly, the Republican frontrunner, controversial billionaire, Donald Trump, failed to win in the Iowa Republican Caucus. He ended up in the second position behind Texas Senator, Ted Cruz. This officially marked the start of the US Presidential Election.
Leading up to the Iowa Caucus, it was Donald Trump who had stolen the show, with the media and the polls having him as the favourite to win. Attention had been focused on his controversial views. One of his main election promises is that he will keep immigrants out by building a giant wall between Mexico and the US. But both Cruz and Trump are on the extreme right of US politics. Both believe that man-made climate change is a hoax, and they hate wind power and do not believe it should be subsidised by the state. Trump had unsuccessfully fought the building of a proposed offshore wind farm near his Scotland golf course a few years back.
Therefore, it might seem quite surprising that so many Iowans split their vote between Cruz and Trump in the Iowa Caucus on Monday night (Cruz got 51,649 votes and Trump 45,416). Wind power is a dominant feature in the landscape of the small conservative state of just three million people, mainly run by Republicans. Its Governor, two Senators and three out of four House of Representatives delegates are all Republicans.
However, there is a broad public support for wind power in Iowa. According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association (IWEA), 85% of people support wind power, and 51% prefer it over any other energy source. This makes it, even more, surprising that Iowans voted for two candidates who want to put a stop to the state`s wind power growth.
The support from Iowans and the Governor, Terry Branstad, of wind power has so far mandated that Iowa is the leading wind power state in the US. 25% of Iowa`s electricity is generated by the power of the wind. Other, larger states have the more generating capacity, but none has such a high share of total electricity production from the power of the wind. And it doesn’t stop here. The current projection is that by 2017 Iowa will have installed ten gigawatts (GW) of wind power generation capacity. This is almost twice what Denmark, with its five million population, has installed, and which currently is the world leader in wind power.
And there is further space for growth. 75% of the land in Iowa is deemed suitable for wind power development. And there are plans to more than double capacity by 2030, as a goal of 20 GW has been set. Iowa’s nearly ten GW of wind power is spread across 100 wind projects, totalling 3,198 wind turbines. This can produce enough electricity to power 1,5 million average US homes. Wind power development has also been good for the local economy where, according to IWEA, 7,000 people are employed in the wind power industry.
The Vice President of IWEA, John Boorman, recently hailed Governor Branstad for his leadership on wind power, having consistently supported it since first elected back in 1983. In an opinion piece in the Iowa paper The Des Moines Register he said “due in large part to Branstad’s leadership, wind energy now supplies nearly 30 percent of Iowa’s electricity. Even better, we’re on track to become the first state to get 40 percent of our energy from wind power.”
In a recent Condition of the State address, Governor Branstad highlighted the importance of wind power: “Our leadership in green energy not only makes us a leader in renewables but also powers job growth. Every wind turbine you see while driving across our state means income for farmers, revenue for local governments and jobs for Iowa families.”
An 119 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Madison County, just inaugurated, became the latest Iowan wind project to come online, adding to the continual growth of the wind industry in the state.
One may wonder if the nearly 100,000 or so people who voted for Trump or Cruz in Monday’s caucus were aware of their stance on wind power? Or, indeed, if Trump and Cruz were aware just how much wind power means to Iowans? Travelling through the landscape of Iowa it is likely they were. But perhaps they just saw Iowa as their first stop on the long road to becoming the Republican nominee.