Officials save Lake Powell as Drought threatens production of hydroelectric power


West USA - Lake Powell
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Elyse Gabor | May 10, 2022

The artificial reservoir, Lake Powell, seeks help from U.S. officials to boost water levels. A prolonged drought has dried up water levels, threatening hydroelectric power production for the Western states. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing 500,000 acre-feet of water. The water is coming from Flaming Gorge Reservoir. An acre-foot equals 3260,000 gallons of water and is enough to supply two houses with water for a year. 

This is the first time unprecedented measures have been taken to boost water levels. Tanya Trujillo, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, said, “We have never taken this step before in the Colorado River Basin, but the conditions we see today and the potential risk we see on the horizon demand that we take prompt action.” 

As the second-largest reservoir in the U.S., Lake Powell was damned in the 1960s. If the lake were to dry up 23 more feet, the megawatt plant wouldn’t be able to supply millions of people in the western U.S. states with electricity.

In the past two decades, this has been the driest period ever recorded. The drought is believed to be caused by climate change. 

Ethanol Bill Passes in the Iowa House and Senate


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Josie Taylor | April 28, 2022

Legislation that would require most Iowa gas stations to sell higher ethanol blends passed both the Iowa House and Senate on Tuesday. 

The bill, House File 2128, received bipartisan support in both chambers, passing 42-3 in the Senate and 78-13 in the House. It is expected that Gov. Kim Reynolds will sign it into law. Reynolds told reporters Tuesday morning that the bill would “sustain and grow” the ethanol industry while helping consumers. 

The bill requires most Iowa gas stations to begin offering 15% ethanol blended fuel (E15) in 2026. The final version of the proposal includes a waiver for Iowa’s smallest gas stations, and state grants to help upgrade infrastructure to support E15. As fueling stations expand and install new tanks, those have to be E15-compatible.

Some Senate Democrats raised concerns about the legislation, arguing it would be a “mandate” and may clash with federal law. 

President Joe Biden visited Iowa earlier this month to announce the temporary summertime sale of E15. Under federal law, E15 may not normally be sold from June to September due to pollution concerns. Reynolds said Iowa was pushing to change the federal law, especially as more gas stations will sell the higher blend.

Biden Opens Oil Reserves to Relieve Gas Prices, Complicating Clean Energy Goals


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Josie Taylor | November 24, 2021

President Joe Biden on Tuesday authorized the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is complicating his administration’s goal to transition to cleaner energy sources.

Biden said he coordinated the release from the reserve, a complex of four sites along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coasts, with leaders in Japan, South Korea, India and the United Kingdom, which would also release their own reserves.

He clarified that this would not affect gas prices over night. 

The president said the release from the reserve was intended to relieve high prices in the short term, but a strategy to transition to other fuel sources would be more effective in the long term.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm echoed the president to reporters at a press briefing following Biden’s remarks. She said the administration was aiming to provide short-term relief from oil prices that are at a seven-year high.

She said the White House hoped to see domestic oil producers return to their pre-pandemic levels, even as Biden has made climate action a central part of his agenda, which would mean more reliance on clean energy rather than oil. 

The Iowa Environmental Council is Holding a Clean Energy Talk


Via Iowa Environmental Council

Josie Taylor | November 16, 2021

On Thursday, November 18, the Iowa Environmental Council will hold a two-hour Bright Ideas 2021 event to discuss sources of clean energy in Iowa, like solar and wind power. 

The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Des Moines but has satellite, group-viewing options in Iowa City and Waterloo. Attendees also have the option to watch a livestream that doesn’t allow participation. 

The featured speaker is Destenie Nock, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She plans to address energy equity. 

The in-person locations include a brunch. The cost to attend ranges from $25 for online viewing to $65 for the Des Moines location. Students and young professionals will get discounts.More information is available here.

Alliant Energy has Plans for Iowa’s Largest Solar Power Project


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Josie Taylor | November 4, 2021

Alliant Energy says it will invest $750 million in 400 megawatts of solar power generation and 75 megawatts of battery storage in eastern Iowa, making it the state’s largest solar project to date.

They will file a plan on Tuesday with the Iowa Utilities Board stating its plan for a 200-megawatt installation, part of which would be on the grounds of the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant. The plant in Palo, northwest of Cedar Rapids, is being decommissioned.

Alliant has committed to building 400-megawatts, which would be the state’s largest solar project, said Morgan Hawk, an Alliant spokesman. Once it’s complete, about half of Alliant’s energy would come from renewable sources, which already include 1,300 megawatts of wind energy, Kouba told the Register.

Iowa utilities are investing heavily in renewable energy. The state got nearly 60% of its energy from wind last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

MidAmerican Energy, Iowa’s other large investor-owned utility, has invested mostly in wind, which provides about 80% of its power generation. The Des Moines-based company said this year it’s also investing in about 140 megawatts of solar generation.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure


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Josie Taylor | October 13, 2021

Since 2011, researchers and educators at nearly every college and university in Iowa have produced annual statements to communicate in plain language the state of climate science and the impacts of climate change on Iowans. Today, the Climate Statement for 2021 was released. This year’s focus is on Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure.

Last year’s August derecho, the most destructive thunderstorm in US history, knocked out power to more than 500,000 Iowa households for as much as two weeks. “The loss of power left people in the dark without air conditioning, refrigeration, access to food, phone chargers and life sustaining medical equipment,” said Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair of Environmental Science and Sustainability Program, Drake University. “This was a potentially deadly combination for many vulnerable and low income Iowans.”

“Iowa’s power outages from the 2020 derecho resulted from extreme damage to transmission and distribution systems,” said Jim McCalley, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Iowa State University.

Climate disasters are not over. To prepare for future Iowa extreme weather events, it is recommended that industry, policy makers and stakeholders identify ways to strengthen Iowa’s electric infrastructure, protect vulnerable people, and consider enhanced risks from climate change while managing costs. Climate change is here. We need a resilient electric infrastructure as we curtail carbon emissions for a more sustainable future.

Biden aims to raise solar energy production from 4 to 45%


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Elizabeth Miglin | September 8, 2021

The Biden administration announced plans to produce half of the nation’s electricity through solar power by 2050, on Wednesday. 

Last year, solar energy provided less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity, now the administration aims to raise production to 45 percent. A new report by the Department of Energy argues the U.S. must quadruple annual solar installations by 2025 in order to reach the administrations’ goal of decarbonizing the power sector. 

Pressure to expedite the transition off of fossil fuels has increased due to recent natural disasters across the country, including Hurricane Ida in New Jeresy and New York, which have highlighted weaknesses in the current energy system. 

With the cost of solar panels dropping over the last decade, solar has become one of the cheapest sources of energy for much of the U.S. The reduced costs has boosted the solar and wind energy market where growth has exceeded government and independent analysts predictions. In culmination, a U.S. Energy Information Administration report projects renewable energy sources will share 42% of the U.S. electricity mix by 2050 at our current growth rate. 

Additionally, the administration hopes to reduce net emission from the power sector to zero by 2035, add hundreds of offshore wind turbines and ensure half of all new cars sold are electric by 2030. 

Iowa City Groups Use Grant Money to Reduce Carbon Emissions


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Josie Taylor | August 23, 2021

In July, 2021 seven projects in Iowa City were given $60,000 to split to go towards climate action. This week some groups are starting to use their money for climate projects. One group, the Iowa City Domestic Violence Intervention Program, put their money towards installing solar panels. 

Iowa City Domestic Violence Intervention Program currently has $31,000 from the city along with the Rotary Club. If they raise $36,000 they will be able to prevent the emission of 16.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Considering carbon dioxide is a main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, this would be very helpful in reducing the risks of climate change. 

The Iowa City Bike Library also received $10,000 from the city grant. They are using their money to update doors and windows to bring in more natural light, this way they will be able to use less artificial light. The Iowa City Bike Library has the goal of being carbon free in five years. Grants like these help them accomplish their goal. 

Iowa City council approved the use of this money in the 2021 fiscal budget. Grants like these help businesses, nonprofits and schools lower their carbon emissions and reduce the risk of climate change in our community. 

The Iowa Legislature Failed to Extend Solar Tax Credits for Homeowners


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Elizabeth Miglin | June 1, 2021

Despite multiple bills introduced to extend the tax credit last year, many died in committee when the Legislature decided to focus on other budget issues during the overtime session. 

The failure of the legislature to extend the solar tax credits will impact more than 750 Iowa homeowners who currently qualify for credit with an average of $3,200 each. This number does not include the 2,000 person and growing waitlist of credit requests by participants, many being farmers according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch. Businesses will continue to be eligible for credits, however the state has spent all of its money for residential projects.

The state has previously offered credits which offset 13% of project costs of under $5,000 for a residential project and $20,000 for commercial projects. Federal tax credits cover an additional 26% of project costs. Between 2012 and 2020, the incentive covered $36.6 million for 6,213 projects with combined costs of $291 million according to the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association.  

Solar energy advocates were told by GOP senators the residential credits would be removed because the industry is “mature” and doesn’t need them. Iowa has become a national leader in renewable energy, predominantly via wind, however the solar industry has grown quickly in the state as well. Around 85 companies have placed their solar energy supply chains in Iowa. Additionally, in 2015 there were only 350 solar-related jobs in Iowa compared to 2019 which grew to 900, according to a trade group.

Multiple solar energy groups are expected to advocate for tax credit legislation next legislative session.