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Buffett's MidAmerican Starts Renewable-Energy Business

By Cassandra Sweet Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES The MidAmerican Energy unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKA, BRKB) said Tuesday it has started a new company to oversee a growing stable of solar, wind and other renewable-energy projects. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., of Des Moines, said it has placed solar and wind farms, geothermal power plants and its interest in a small hydroelectric project into a new company called MidAmerican Renewables LLC. MidAmerican's president and chief executive, Greg Abel, said the company expects U.S. demand for renewable energy to continue growing and that the company wants "to be a leader in this area." On Monday, MidAmerican said it plans to buy an 81-megawatt wind farm in Illinois from Invenergy Wind LLC as part of the company's growing wholesale renewable-energy business. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. The wind farm has a contract to sell the electricity it generates to Ameren Corp.'s (AEE) Illinois utility. In December, MidAmerican said it would buy a $2 billion California solar farm from First Solar Inc. (FSLR) and that it would acquire a 49% share of a $1.8 billion solar-power plant owned by NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) that First Solar is building in the Arizona desert. Both solar facilities have long-term power purchase agreements with PG&E Corp.'s (PCG) California utility. MidAmerican already owns and operates geothermal power facilities in California, which use underground heat and steam to generate electricity, and it owns half of a 10-megawatt hydroelectric project in Hawaii that generates electricity without dams. MidAmerican Renewables said it is considering acquiring more renewable-energy projects that would generate electricity for the wholesale power market to meet growing demand for clean energy. "We'll be looking for opportunities to grow this business," said Tina Potthoff, a spokeswoman for MidAmerican. "We think there's a growing desire by utilities and other companies to green up their business." -By Cassandra Sweet, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6468; cassandra.sweet@dowjones.com

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