Located between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, Iowa’s gently rolling plains have some of the richest farmland in the nation and significant renewable energy resources. The state’s climate, with rainfall in the growing season and dry air at harvest, together with Iowa’s deep topsoils, produce abundant grain crops. The state leads the nation in the production of both corn and ethanol. Unobstructed winds blow across Iowa’s open prairie, giving the state significant wind resources. With its many days of sunshine each year, Iowa has solar energy potential as well. However, Iowa has few fossil energy resources and no crude oil or natural gas production.

Manufacturing and agriculture make Iowa one of the five largest energy-consuming states.

With its significant industrial sector, Iowa ranks fifth in the nation in energy use per capita, placing the state above the national median in total energy consumption despite its small population. Iowa is the only non-petroleum-producing state among the five largest energy-consuming states. The industrial sector leads Iowa’s end-use energy consumption, accounting for half of the state total. Agriculture, biofuels production, and manufacturing are key Iowa industries. Iowa consistently ranks among the top 10 states in the nation in the share of gross domestic product (GDP) from manufacturing. Iowa’s manufactured products include food and beverages; machinery; fabricated metals; transportation equipment; computers and electronics; plastics; and chemicals. Food and beverage production alone provides one-fifth of the state’s manufacturing GDP. The transportation sector uses about one-fifth of the energy consumed by end users in Iowa, less than half as much as the industrial sector. The residential sector and the commercial sector together account for less than one-third of the state’s end-use consumption.

Renewable Energy

Quick Facts

  • Iowa, the largest producer of ethanol in the United States, had 25.9% of the nation’s fuel ethanol manufacturing capacity in 2016.
  • Iowa ranked third among the states in consumption of liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) in 2014, in part because of heavy use of LPG in the industrial sector for such as activities as drying corn crops and in the residential sector for heating.
  • Coal’s share of net electricity generation in Iowa declined from 76% in 2008 to 47% in 2016, but coal is still the state’s largest source of net electricity generation.
  • In 2016, Iowa ranked second among the states in net electricity generation from wind and third in net electricity generation from all nonhydroelectric renewable energy resources.
  • Wind provided 36.6% of Iowa’s total electricity generation in 2016, a larger share than in any other state. Wind was second only to coal as an energy source for electricity generation in the state.

Iowa obtained more than one-third of its net electricity generation from wind in 2016, the highest share of any state. Iowa is second only to Texas in the total amount of electricity generated from wind. The strongest winds occur in northwestern Iowa, and, although there are wind facilities across the state, most of the wind power plants in Iowa are located in the state’s north and west. Iowa’s wind resources place it among the nation’s leading states in the percentage of in-state electricity generation from renewable resources other than hydroelectric power. About 2% of the state’s net electricity generation comes from hydroelectric power and biomass. The Iowa Energy Center has created the Biomass Energy Conversion Facility to focus on development of Iowa’s abundant biomass resource potential. Iowa’s number of sunny days and its resulting solar power potential increase from northeast to southwest across the state. Only a small amount of solar photovoltaic electricity is generated in Iowa, all from distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) facilities.

Iowa produces more ethanol than any other state in the nation.

Iowa is the leading ethanol-producing state in the nation and has one-fourth of the nation’s ethanol production capacity. The state’s ethanol plants have a combined productive capacity of about 4 billion gallons per year. Iowa’s plentiful cornfields provide the feedstock for most of the state’s 44 ethanol plants, which include three cellulosic ethanol plants that use agricultural waste, either corn stover (the stalk, leaf, cob, and husk left after harvest) or corn kernel fiber, as feedstocks. A plant that will use municipal solid waste as a feedstock is in development. Iowa also has a dozen biodiesel plants with a combined productive capacity of more than 330 million gallons per year. Iowa has the second-largest biodiesel production capacity in the nation, after Texas. In 2016, the state produced a record 297 million gallons of biodiesel.

Iowa’s energy policies and regulations promote energy efficiency and renewable resources. In 1983, Iowa became the first state in the nation to adopt a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). State regulations required Iowa’s two investor-owned electric utilities to own or to contract for a combined total of 105 megawatts of renewable generating capacity and associated production, from facilities approved by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB). Capacity from eligible renewable resources has exceeded the RPS goals. In 2008, the IUB, at the direction of the state legislature, established energy efficiency standards for each regulated electric and natural gas utility in the state. Municipal and cooperative utilities were required to set their own energy efficiency goals. In addition to energy efficiency standards, the Mandatory Utility Green Power Option requires all electric utilities operating in Iowa, including those not rate-regulated by the IUB, to offer renewable-sourced power options to their customers.


More than one-third of Iowa’s net electricity generation comes from wind.

Iowa’s five largest power plants by capacity are all coal-fired, and coal is the primary fuel used for electricity generation in the state. However, coal’s contribution has declined as wind’s share has grown. As recently as 2008, coal accounted for three-fourths of Iowa’s net electricity generation. In 2016, for the first time in decades, coal-fired plants produced less than half of the electricity generated in the state. Wind, the second-largest source, accounted for more than one-third of Iowa’s net generation, growing from 7.7% in 2008. The state’s only nuclear power plant, Duane Arnold, with its single reactor, is the fifth-smallest operating nuclear power plant in the nation, but on average it provides nearly one-tenth of the state’s net electricity generation. The amount of electricity generated from natural gas in Iowa has fluctuated, but natural gas-fired power plants typically contribute less than 5% of the state’s net generation. Small amounts of electricity from hydroelectric and biomass sources account for most of the rest of the state’s power generation. Iowa typically generates more electricity than it consumes. More than two-fifths of retail electricity is sold to the industrial sector, and Iowa’s retail electricity rates are among the lowest one-fifth of states.

Natural Gas

Iowa does not have any natural gas production, but the state is crossed by four interstate natural gas pipeline systems and has four natural gas storage fields that together account for about 3% of U.S. storage capacity. Natural gas enters Iowa from Canada by pipelines that cross North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, while other pipelines bring natural gas from the south and southwest into the state. More than four-fifths of the natural gas entering Iowa continues on to markets in the Midwest and beyond.

Natural gas provides about one-fifth of the total energy consumed in Iowa. More than half of the natural gas delivered to end users in the state is consumed in the industrial sector. The residential sector, where almost two-thirds of households use natural gas as their primary home heating fuel, consumes about one-fifth of the natural gas delivered to end users in Iowa.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (Mar 2017)

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