Iowa State University researchers recieve grant to study taller wind turbines

Nick Fetty | September 19, 2014
Iowa leads the country in in percentage of electricity generated by wind energy (Samir Luther/Flickr)
Iowa leads the country in in percentage of electricity generated by wind energy (Samir Luther/Flickr)

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded researchers at Iowa State University $1 million to study how high-strength concrete can be used to build taller wind turbines.

Sri Sritharan, the Wilson Engineering Professor in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University, is the leader of the College of Engineering’s Wind Energy Initiative and expects this research to “revolutionize wind energy.” These taller towers will allow the turbines blades to reach heights of over 100 meters, where winds are faster and more consistent. This will be particularly beneficial in areas where higher winds are necessary to effectively harvest the energy.

This project will build upon earlier work by Sritharan and fellow researches. The team developed a strongly-reinforced base they called Hexcrete and found that it was able to handle the heavy loads and extreme conditions. The project is also supported by a $83,500 grant from the Iowa Energy Center and $22,500 from Lafarge North America Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The Wind Energy Initiative at Iowa State has eight projects that are being researched or have recently been completed including a project with the University of Colorado examining turbine-crop and turbine-turbine interactions.

The Department of Energy has also awarded another $1 million grant to Boston-based Keystone Towers which which hopes to develop an on-site “spiral welding system” to develop wind turbine towers that are expected to be 40% lighter.

Mahaska County supervisors consider tax abatement for construction of wind farm

Nick Fetty | July 8, 2014
Wind turbines along Interstate 35 in Iowa. Photo by Brian Hoffman; Flickr
Wind turbines along Interstate 35 in Iowa.
Photo by Brian Hoffman; Flickr

During a meeting Monday, the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors discussed offering a tax abatement for a wind farm that RPM Access LLC hopes to build in Mahaska County.

The proposed abatement would reduce the level of taxation placed on RPM Access and Supervisor Mike Vander Molen said this abatement is necessary to make the project feasible. The $290 million project will be dependent upon all landowners involved in the proposal agreeing to sell their land and is expected to bring $60 million into the county over a 30-year span.

Per Iowa Code, the Board of Supervisors must wait 30 days before an ordinance can be adopted. This topic will be revisited during the board meeting on August 18. Construction on the wind farm may begin as early as 2016 and is expected to take about seven months to complete.

RPM Access has 13 projects in Iowa and one in Kansas. The De Soto-based company is also working with Facebook and Google on upcoming operations coming to the Hawkeye State.

Large solar energy project proposed for Mitchell County in northern Iowa

Nick Fetty | July 3, 2014
Concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) solar farm in Canyon County, Idaho. Photo by Nicolas Morgan; Flickr
Concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) solar farm in Canyon County, Idaho.
Photo by Nicolas Morgan; Flickr

A $1.5 million solar array project – expected to be one of the largest in the state – has been proposed for Mitchell County in northern Iowa and is pending final approval from county officials.

The Heartland Power Cooperative will install 1,200 solar panels across 4 1/2 acres just east of St. Ansgar.  The cooperative has partnered with the National Renewable Cooperative Organization, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange for this project.

Construction is expected to be completed by late fall and the operation should be running by 2015.

Heartland Power Cooperative serves approximately 2,500 members in northern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota.

EDIT: Post originally stated project was finalized however it is in the “Request for Proposal” stage and has yet to receive final approval from county officials.

World Cup flights fueled by renewable energy

Nick Fetty | June 19, 2014
A McDonnell Douglas MD-83 in Japan during the 2014 World Cup Trophy Tour. Photo by ken H; Flickr
A McDonnell Douglas MD-83 in Japan during the 2014 World Cup Trophy Tour.
Photo by ken H; Flickr

Inedible corn oil and used cooking oil can be combined to create a renewable jet fuel which will power more than 200 flights on GOL Airlines during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Honeywell Green Jet Fuel is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 to 85 percent relative to petroleum-based fuels. This amounts to roughly 185 metric tons of CO2. Honeywell’s Renewable Jet Fuel Process technology was first developed in 2007. In 2011 an aircraft traveling from North American to Europe became the first to use a 50/50 blend of the green jet fuel and its petroleum-based counterpart.

The United States and Brazil combine for about 70 percent of global biofuel consumption with Brazil being the world’s second-largest biofuel producer. A recent deal between companies in the United States and the United Kingdom looks to construct a plant that will convert post-recycled waste into jet fuel.

Last week, the Iowa Environmental Focus wrote about the Chinese company that has installed solar panels for the various stadiums being used in the 2014 World Cup.

Construction underway for biofuel station in NW Iowa

Nick Fetty | June 17, 2014
An ethanol plant near Marcus in Western Iowa. Photo via keeva999; Flickr
An ethanol plant near Marcus in Western Iowa.
Photo via keeva999; Flickr

Construction has recently begun on a new biofuel station in the Northwest Iowa town of Inwood.

Once completed, the Oak Street Station will provide motorists with various blends of ethanol (E10, E15, E30 and E85) as well as biodiesel (B5 and B99.9). The governor’s “Fueling Our Future” grant – a collaboration with the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship – provided $125,000 for the project. This grant is also helping to fund a similar project in the South Central Iowa town of Mouth Ayr.

According to data from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, there are 42 ethanol refineries and 12 biodiesel refineries in the state. Combined these facilities have an annual production capacity of more than four billion gallons.

Construction for the Inwood facility broke ground last week and is expected to be completed by January 2015.

Chinese company to provide solar energy for World Cup

Nick Fetty | June 12, 2014
The United States taking on Guatemala during a qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup. Photo by Brent Flanders; Flickr
The United States taking on Guatemala in Kansas City during a qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup.
Photo by Brent Flanders; Flickr

Yingli Solar looks to become the first carbon-neutral sponsor for the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off today in Brazil.

The 16-year old company contributed more than 5000 solar panels and nearly 30 off-grid solar energy systems to provide power for matches at the various stadiums. Yingli – which is the only Chinese company to sponsor the World Cup – is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. The company hopes to not only “use the World Cup platform to increase the awareness toward the functionality of solar energy in day-to-day use” but also to raise brand awareness in the United States as well as globally. Yingli first got involved sponsoring the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and research shows that customer awareness increased 30 percent because of the sponsorship.

A 2010 study found that the World Cup that year created a carbon footprint equivalent to more than 2,750,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The 2014 tournament is expected to create roughly the same carbon footprint.

On the Radio: Regent universities awarded for environmental contributions

Check out this week’s radio segment here.  It discusses the Environmental Excellence Awards received by the state’s regent universities earlier this year.

The sustainability efforts of Iowa’s regent universities have caught the eye of Governor Branstad. Continue reading

New research on hydro power opens policy doors

Photo by Miranda Richards, Flickr

Originally left out of many green energy policy initiatives, new research on hydro power could shake up the clean energy game.

Read more from below:

Hydroelectric power has long been left out of renewable energy counts, on the assumption that it creates some greenhouse gas emissions as vegetation caught in damned rivers rots. But that may be about to change, with the results of new research just published by Dr. Jonathan Cole in Nature Geoscience finding that hydroelectric power reservoirs are responsible for only about a sixth of the carbon dioxide and methane previously attributed to them. Continue reading

Marion set to burn trash for energy

Photo credit: Ashley Felton, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a huge project – over $100 million dollars huge.

But it’s a go.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported yesterday that the city of Marion may be ready as early as this spring to begin construction on a waste-burning plasma arc that once built, should generate enough energy to power 47,000 – 62,000 homes.

How green and economically feasible in incineration? That’s still up for debate.

In April the New York Times published this great in-depth report about how the technology is catching on in Europe but not the US. It followed up by soliciting opinions on the matter from a broad range of experts. The results were mixed, but the pieces are certainly worth a read.

Unfortunately my feeble, unscientific brain can’t enlighten you any further, except to say it it will be an exciting project to watch. And at this point, most energy plans sound better than the filthy coal we keep burning.

But as planning continues in Marion (and perhaps one day at the UI as the Gazette reported in June) I’m sure we’ll hear more opinions and see more research. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

For those of you reading this who actually are experts on energy, what do you think?

Report: Wind Industry has broad reach in Iowa economy

A new report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based environmental advocacy organization, shows just how much the wind industry impacts Iowa’s economy. It reaches more than 80 local business and provides 2,300 manufacturing jobs, which likely leads the nation, the report states.

With over 25,000 wind turbines at 80 sites, about 20% of the power Iowa generates comes from wind. Continue reading