Report identifies top clean and sustainable technologies for 2015

No-flush urinals - such as these at a McDonalds in England - are just one of the environmentally-sustainable technologies discussed in the report. (Wikimedia)
No-flush urinals – such as these at a McDonalds in England – are just one of the environmentally-sustainable technologies discussed in the report. (Anna Smith/Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | May 22, 2015

A recent report identifies 2015’s most promising technologies for addressing climate and other environmental concerns.

The 157-page report – “Top Technologies in Clean & Green Environment – 2015″ was published earlier this month in Research and Markets. The authors examine ways to address environmental concerns such as water scarcity, energy depletion and global warming. Specifically the authors look at the top 10 innovations in the Clean and Green Environment sector: (1) Atmospheric Water Generation, (2) Waste-to-Energy, (3) Waterless Technologies, (4) Water-Energy Efficient Technologies, (5) Solid Waste Upcycling, (6) Indoor Air Purification, (7) Reverse Osmosis, (8) Air Filtration, (9) Membrane Distillation, and (10) Capacitive Deionization.

Water quality and water scarcity issues have forced innovators to develop waterless and water-efficient technologies such as no-flush urinals and waterless printers. In addition to water, the report also examined technologies to protect the land (composting, waste-to-energy), the air (atmospheric CO2 removal, particulate air pollution control), and the general environment (biomass energy with carbon capture storage, non-vapor HVAC compression technology).

The report also identified six key challenges that stand in the way of green technologies: (1) high energy intensity, (2) net environmental impact, (3) lack of funding, (4) lag in supporting technologies, (5) end-user skepticism, and (6) unknown effects.

Iowa State University solar car travels across the state

The solar car outside of the statehouse in Des Moines (Team PrISUm/Twitter)
Iowa State University’s solar car “Team PrISUm” outside of the statehouse in Des Moines on Tuesday. (Team PrISUm/Twitter)

Nick Fetty | May 21, 2015

This week students, researchers, and others on Iowa State University’s “Team PrISUm” solar car are participating in a five-day tour across the state.

Team PrISUm’s SunRun began Monday with a stop in Denison, the hometown of former Iowa Hawkeye lineman Brandon Scherff who was the fifth overall selection in last month’s NFL Draft. On Tuesday the car visited Des Moines, Indianola, and Cedar Rapids before traveling to Monticello, Independence, and Cedar Falls on Wednesday. Today the tour will stop in Algona, Orange City, and Cherokee before visiting Webster City and returning to Ames on Friday.

Team PrISUm is a student-run organization first established in 1989 by the campus’ chapter of Tau Beta Pi, an honor society for engineering students. The group first competed in the GM Sunrayce in 1990 racing from Florida to Michigan and placing 17th out of 32 competitors. According to its website, “PrISUm is the only team that has competed in every cross country American solar car race.” Around 1995 the team opened its membership up to students of all majors. The researchers are currently designing the 13th generation solar car which is expected to compete in the 2016 American Solar Challenge.

For for updates about Team PrISUm follow the group on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out  Juice’s photo gallery of Tuesday’s stop in Des Moines and KCRG’s coverage of Wednesday’s event in Independence.

Team PrISUm stopped at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids during its 2015 SunRun tour. (Team PrISUm/Facebook)
Team PrISUm stopped at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids during its 2015 SunRun tour. (Team PrISUm/Facebook)

Bird flu damages estimated at $1 billion for Iowa, Minn

Iowa leads the nation in egg production. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)
Iowa leads the nation in egg production. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | May 19, 2015

Estimates released Monday show that the recent bird flu outbreak is expected to cause a $1 billion loss in the economies of two of the countries biggest poultry producers: Iowa and Minnesota.

The Hawkeye State alone has lost about 20 million egg-laying chickens, more than one third of the state’s total, and economic losses are estimated around $600 million. These loses affect “feed suppliers, trucking companies, and processing plants.” Thus far the outbreak has been reported in 15 different states and cases reported in Iowa and Minnesota are expected to increase.

Poultry producers and landfill operators are now struggling with ways to dispose of the contaminated bird caucuses which number around 26 million. Landfill operators in northwest Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota – among the country’s hardest hit regions – have turned away the dead birds out of contamination fears. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Iowa governor Terry Branstad, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and other top officials have urged landfills to begin accepting birds caucuses before improper disposal leads to odors, flies, and other problems. It may be a year or longer before poultry producers are able to fully recover from this setback.

“They are not going to come back all at once. It’s going to take one to two years for these layer facilities to be back into full production, it’s a gradual process,” said Maro Ibarburu, a business analyst at the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University, during an interview with the Associated Press.

On the Radio: Bird flu leading to cleanup concerns

(Kusabi / Flickr)
(Kusabi / Flickr)
May 18, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at environmental concerns brought on by the massive bird flu cleanup across the state. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Bird flu cleanup

The recent bird flu outbreak is raising environmental questions about disposing of millions of dead birds.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Avian influenza has hit Iowa harder than any other state, with almost 25 million chickens and turkeys affected so far. The disease is known to claim a bird’s life within hours of showing symptoms, and is extremely pathogenic. The only way to stop the spread of the disease is to euthanize entire flocks, using a foam application that asphyxiates the birds.

This mass euthanization is leading to a disposal crisis in affected counties. While composting the dead birds is the quickest option, the process may pose risk for local health and water quality. The USDA has deployed hundreds of bio-bags capable of killing the virus until the birds can be moved to sanitary landfills, but concerns from nearby farmers have prevented movement of the birds so far. The only remaining option may be incineration.

For continued updates on the Iowa bird flu outbreak, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Iowa partners with Chinese company for wind turbine project

Wind turbines in northern Iowa. (Brooke Raymond/Flickr)
Wind turbines in northern Iowa. (Brooke Raymond/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | May 15, 2015

Officials in Iowa and wind turbine manufacturer HZ Windpower have partnered for a project that will construct 14 new turbines in the Hawkeye State.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynold met with officials from the China-based company to commemorate the agreement in West Des Moines on Wednesday. The $45 million, 28-megawatt project will construct turbines in Creston, Dyersville, Mason City and Perry.

“We are proud to be a part of the celebration and I am proud to be a part of the relationship that has been developed over the years. ‘And we truly believe that this is just the beginning and there are tremendous opportunities to continue to build on the investment that we are signing on here today,” Reynolds said.

Each turbine produces about two megawatts of energy which is enough to power about 500 homes. Officials with both sides also expressed interest about working together on future projects. By the end of 2014 Iowa had 5,688 MW of installed wind energy, a figure that is expected to grow to 63,000 MW by the end of this year.

Earlier this month MidAmerican Energy announced plans for a $900 million, 552 MW expansion of wind energy which is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Additionally, Alliant Energy recently announced plans for a 200 MW project.

As report released earlier this month shows that the state’s wind energy sector is on track to meet and likely exceed federal energy goals over the next fifteen years.

Study: Cattle hormones more environmentally damaging than previously thought

Iowa ranks 7th in the nation
The USDA reports there were approximately 3,800,000 head of cattle in Iowa in 2014. (Brad Smith/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | May 14, 2015

Hormones used to beef up cattle could be causing more environmental damage than once thought, according to a recent study in the journal Nature Communications.

The study – which was co-authored by University of Iowa environmental engineering professor David Cwiertny – found hormones associated with cattle production “persist in the environment at higher concentrations and for longer durations than previously thought.” The hormones eventually end up in streams and rivers which has affected the reproductive health and behavioral patterns of fish and other aquatic life.

“We’re releasing this into the environment at levels that are potentially problematic for the ecosystem,” said Adam Ward, lead author of the study. “If you’re an amphibian, a fish, a minnow, you spend your whole life being bathed in this sort of low dose of testosterone.”

The researchers examined trenbolone acetate (or TBA) which speeds up muscle growth in cattle and has been used in the industry for about 20 years. When the TBA is metabolized it breaks down into a compound known as 17-alpha-trenbolone which then runs off into waterways.

The study is a follow up to research Cwiertny published in 2013 which suggested that when 17-alpha-trenbolone was exposed to sunlight it broke down and resulted in lower concentrations in waterways however the most recent research now suggests that the compound doesn’t break down as much as previously thought.

According data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service, Iowa ranks 7th in the nation for cattle production.

Iowa Climate Statement 2015 calls for presidential hopefuls to address climate change

Chris Anderson, Assistant Director of the Climate   Science Program at Iowa State University, spoke during the press conference for the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement at the Iowa capitol in Des Moines on Monday May 11, 2015. (Joe Bolkcom/Twitter)
Chris Anderson, Assistant Director of the Climate  
Science Program at Iowa State University, spoke during the press conference for the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement at the Iowa capitol in Des Moines on Monday May 11, 2015. (Joe Bolkcom/Twitter)

Nick Fetty | May 12, 2015

DES MOINES – Authors of the “Iowa Climate Statement 2015: Time for Action” presented their findings and called for presidential hopefuls to address climate change while on the campaign trail during a press conference at the statehouse on Monday.

This year’s statement was signed by 188 scientists and researchers from 39 colleges and universities across the state. Traditionally the climate statement is released in the fall but this year it was a released early as a way to encourage presidential hopefuls visiting the Hawkeye State to address climate change and its affects during their campaigns. The lead authors of the fifth annual statement felt that Iowa’s role as the first in the nation caucus gives the state a unique opportunity to bring these issues into the national spotlight.

“Our goal is to clearly communicate the expected impacts of climate changes on Iowa, to ensure decisions are based upon accurate, current scientific information,” said David Courard‐Hauri, Director of the Environmental Science and
Policy Program at Drake University. “This year with presidential candidates visiting Iowa for the 2016 caucuses, we felt that it makes sense to step back, summarize what we’ve done in the past, and encourage Iowans to find out from politicians how they expect to engage this issue.”

The authors felt that climate change has largely been ignored by presidential candidates from both parties in past years.

“This is unacceptable and we’re calling on voters in the state and members of the press who are interviewing candidates or asking them questions in debates to make sure that anyone who wants to be president has the opportunity to spell out clearly for voters how they will deal with the most critical of issues,” Courard‐Hauri said.

Chris Anderson, Assistant Director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, stated that there are 13,950 peer-reviewed scientific publications that have attributed humans as being the primary causes of climate change. He compared the peer review process to receiving a second medical opinion from a physician and cited that a mere 24 publications (out of 13,974) haven’t connected climate change to human activity.

“In Iowa we are already feeling the affects of climate change,” Anderson said. “What we have seen in Iowa is an increase in frequency of the number of excessively wet springs and an increased frequency in the number of excessively wet days and these are causing substantial damages to our cities and our farmland.”

Anderson added that many of these conditions are expected to worsen in the coming years.

Yogi Shah, Associate Dean  of the Department of Global Health at Des Moines University, focused on the health affects of climate change, many of which were addressed in the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans. He cited that due to temperature and other weather pattern changes associated with climate change, Iowans are experiencing an additional 19 days of allergies compared to previous years.

Additionally, increased temperatures and carbon levels have led to a greater number of mosquito-borne and other diseases spread by insects.

“[With] every degree rise in temperature, [the] mosquito population grows by eight to tenfold,” he said.

These issues of increased extreme weather events and the associated health complications again come back to the need for policymakers to take action, particularly those seeking to become the next president of the United States.

“Iowans take our role in choosing candidates very seriously and we deserve to have a clear picture of how each candidate plans to guide our country in the face of a changing climate,” Courard‐Hauri said. “Moreover the 188 signers who study and teach about climate speak with one voice in our effort to make extremely clear to Iowans and members of the news media, how important this issue is to cover, to report on, and to ask candidates about.”

Check out the Cedar Rapids Gazette  for additional coverage from Monday’s event.