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)

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.

Al Gore discusses climate change during visit to Iowa

Former vice president Al Gore visited Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. (openDemocrary/Flickr)
Former vice president Al Gore visited Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. (openDemocrary/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | May 7, 2015

Former vice president Al Gore said Iowa’s role as the first in the nation caucus could serve as a platform to address climate change at the national level during his stop in Cedar Rapids earlier this week.

“It’s hard to miss the importance of a state that is simultaneously the first contest in the presidential contest and the number one producer of wind electricity in the country with a fast-growing solar economy also,” Gore told The Des Moines Register. “You put those two things together and I think Iowa has a tremendous potential for pushing this onto the agenda of (presidential) candidates in both parties.”

Gore’s visit to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday was a part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, a four city tour sponsored by The Climate Reality Program (launched by Gore in 2011 to promote awareness about climate change) which also includes stops in Miami, Toronto, and New Delhi. This mini tour is part of a series of events leading up to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting scheduled to take place this December in Paris.

Cedar Rapids was chosen as a stop on the tour not just because of Iowa’s impact on the upcoming election cycle but also its role as a renewable energy leader and major food producer. Gore and other officials with the project educated Iowans about the effects of climate change and how the Hawkeye State will be affected unless action is taken.

The  three-day conference ends today.

Report: Iowa wind power on track to meet federal energy goals

Map of utility-scale wind generation in and around Iowa. (Iowa Wind Energy Association)
Map of utility-scale wind generation in and around Iowa. (Iowa Wind Energy Association)

Nick Fetty | May 5, 2015

Iowa’s wind energy sector has the state on track to meet and likely exceed federal energy goals over the next fifteen years, according to a report released Monday by the Iowa Wind Energy Association.

Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its Clean Power Plan which calls for a nationwide reduction in carbon pollution from power plants. Monday’s report suggest that once Iowa reaches its goal it will be able to assist other states in reducing carbon emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Given the local economic and the wider environmental impacts, the continued expansion of wind power on a large scale in Iowa appears to be extremely beneficial, to the state, the region, and the planet,” the authors concluded in the report. 

Iowa has invested roughly $10 billion in wind energy since 2003 and currently leads the nation in percentage of electricity generated from wind energy at 28.5 percent. However there is still room for improvement as 59 percent of Iowa’s electricity in 2013 came from coal power.

This report comes on the heels of an announcement last week by MidAmerican Energy for a $900 million, 552 MW expansion of wind energy in the Hawkeye State. Officials have not a released a location for the proposed expansion but the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Additionally, Alliant Energy announced plans last month for a 200 MW wind energy project in Iowa.

On the Radio: Gas tax may lead to increased biodiesel use

(Rob E / Flickr)
(Rob E / Flickr)
May 4, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a possible increase in biodiesel use due to recent changes in the Iowa gas tax. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Biodiesel

Iowa’s recently approved gas tax may lead to increasing use of biodiesel.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Last month, the Iowa legislature approved a ten cent increase in the gas tax, revenue which will go toward fixing our aging roads and bridges. While the increase applies to both gasoline and conventional diesel, biodiesel received a three cent exemption from the tax for certain blends. Biodiesel proponents hope this provision will lead to expanded use of the fuels.

Iowa’s ten operating biodiesel plants produced 227 million gallons of the biofuel last year, from soybeans and other oils. The Iowa Biodiesel Board estimates that Iowa has an annual capacity of more than 300 million gallons. The Department of Revenue projects 13 percent of Iowa’s petroleum to be replaced by biofuels by 2020, short of the legislative goal of 25 percent.

For more information about biofuels, visit

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

ISU researchers discover new magnetic allow for wind turbines, cars

Iowa State University researcher Arjun Pathak melts material for a new magnetic alloy he helped to create. (The Ames Laboratory)

Nick Fetty | April 30, 2015

Researchers at Iowa State University have created a new magnetic alloy which is expected to replace “traditional rare-earth permanent magnets” for products such as automobiles and wind turbines.

The researchers published their findings in a report titled “Cerium: An Unlikely Replacement of Dysprosium in High Performance Nd–Fe–B Permanent Magnets” in the journal Advanced Materials. The new magnetic allow will serve as a more affordable and abundant alternative to dysprosium which is “one of the scarcest and costliest rare earth elements.” Though dysprosium does not exist in nature as a free element, “[it] is found in various minerals, such as xenotime.”

The new alloy consists of “iron, neodymium and boron co-doped with cerium and cobalt” and costs up to 40 percent less than the current alloy that requires dysprosium. The researchers found that the new alloy’s intrinsic coercivity (the ability of a magnetic material to resist demagnetization) is able to function at temperatures of 150° C or higher, a marked improvement over dysprosium.

“This is quite exciting result; we found that this material works better than anything out there at temperatures above 150° C,” researcher Karl A. Gschneidner said in a press release. “It’s an important consideration for high-temperature applications.”

This research was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E REACT program (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy–Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies).