To achieve Obama’s SOTU goal, Iowa may need to invest in solar energy


Photo from the 2009 Solar Decathlon in Washington DC. Credit: F. Delventhal, Flickr.


Former Hawkeye football star Tim Dwight is among those pushing to incentivize solar energy in Iowa

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama set forth an ambitious national goal: to derive 80 percent of electricity from “clean energy” sources by 2035 – a notion praised by a group of key Senators.

“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas,” he told the joint session of Congress.

But for the U.S. to reach that goal, states will need to drastically reshape their economies, and Iowa is no exception.

Though Iowa is now the second leading producer of wind energy in the country, about 72 percent of its energy still comes from coal-fire plants that are often outmoded, according an Iowa Physicians for Responsibility report. To reach Obama’s renewable goal, we may need to look to the sun. 

Iowa doesn’t generate much solar energy today. Its photovoltaic industry consists of a few companies scattered across the state. Projects including a charging station for electric cars nearing completion at the University of Iowa, a hybrid wind-solar station at the University of Northern Iowa and rural electric projects in towns like Kalona.

But advocates like Tim Dwight, the Hawkeye football hero-turned green entrepreneur,

Tim Dwight at a recent visit to the State Capitol Building

hope Iowa will intensify it’s focus on the solar industry – for the sake of the environment and the economy.

“If we incentivize solar today, I could go out and hire loads and loads of people,” he told IEF on Monday at the State Capitol Building. If Iowa fails to incentivize, he added, “we’re going to be losing people to other states.”

Dwight said rural Iowa is the perfect spot for solar energy panels.

“It’s a commodities game. Corn’s a commodity. Soybeans are a commodity. We understand this game and we have the space for it,” he said.

And what about the notion that Iowa doesn’t get enough continuous sun to make the power viable? That’s one of the many misconceptions about solar energy. Dwight and many others point to the vast solar industry that Germany has cultivated despite its temperate climate.

“People don’t think we get enough sun here,” said Dwight. “It’s fascinating to me because I wonder how all our corn grows.”

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