MidAmerican Energy will reduce emissions at Iowa plants

MidAmerican's Council Bluffs facility. Photo by nixter, Flickr.
MidAmerican’s Council Bluffs facility. Photo by nixter, Flickr.

Following a complaint from the Sierra Club, MidAmerican Energy Co. has agreed to reduce emissions at three of their Iowa-based power plants.

The Sierra Club threatened to sue MidAmerican this past summer for releasing more pollutants than permitted at their plants in Sergeant Bluff, Bettendorf and Council Bluffs.

To avoid the lawsuit, MidAmerican agreed to stop burning coal in two boilers at both the Council Bluffs and Sergeant Bluff facilities by April 2016. They will also convert three coal-fired boilers in Bettendorf to natural gas.

Read more here.

UI tests new biomass sources

Miscanthus. Photo by Mollivan Jon, Flickr.

As previously covered on this blog, the University of Iowa uses oat hulls as biomass in order to reduce their use of coal. The University of Iowa is now looking to expand their use of biomass by using new sources.

UI has already tested seed corn, saw dust and greenwood energy pellets. There’s also a possibility that the university will use locally grown miscanthus — a plant similar to sugarcane. In fact, UI has contracted with a Muscatine County farmer to plant about 15 acres of miscanthus this spring.

The larger goal is to produce 40 percent of UI’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Read more here.

On the Radio: Alliant chooses natural gas over coal

Photo by rocketjim54, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s episode highlights Alliant Energy’s decision to build a natural gas plant in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Influenced by environmental concerns, Alliant Energy has changed their focus from building a coal fire power plant to building a natural gas plant in Marshalltown.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

Alliant Energy to built natural gas power plant in Marshalltown

Photo by rocketjim54, Flickr.

Alliant Energy has announced plans to build a power plant in Marshalltown fueled by natural gas. Originally, Alliant wanted to build a coal-fired plant, but they changed their plans due to public outcry.

Alliant also plans to invest $430 million in environmental upgrades at their coal plants in Ottumwa and Lansing.

If Alliant’s plans are approved, the power plant in Marshalltown will open in 2017.

Read more from the Des Moines Register here.

ISU to reduce coal use on campus

Photo by jimmywayne, Flickr

Iowa State University is working to cut back on their use of coal. The ISU power plant is over 115 years old, and currently uses five coal boilers. The plant will soon cease using its three oldest boilers for coal, and instead will use them to burn natural gas.

ISU also implemented wind energy back in 2010 to cut back on their use of coal. Six percent of the university’s energy needs are met by wind energy.

Coal emits greenhouse gasses and other harmful toxins, including mercury, when burned.

Read the full article about ISU’s energy changes here.

For more information on the environmental impacts of coal, visit the EPA’s website here.

Study finds little benefits in switch from coal to natural gas

Photo by Bruno D Rodrigues, Flickr

A study published in Climatic Change found that switching from coal to natural gas does little to protect the ozone layer.

The Iowa Independent reports:

Natural gas may be a cleaner-burning energy source than coal, but making the switch isn’t likely to slow global warming any time soon, according to a new study in the journal Climatic Change. Continue reading

EPA imposes new limits on power plants

Photo by Bill.Roehl, Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to impose new regulations on many nationwide power plants. These plants were picked because their generated air pollution affects other states downwind. Iowa is among the 27 states containing power plants subject to the new EPA limits. Omaha World-Herald reports that the increased regulations specifically target coal plants:

Critics called it another step by the Obama administration to crack down on coal-fired power plants. The regulation is one of several expected from the EPA that would target pollution from the nation’s 594 coal-fired power plants, which provide nearly half of the country’s electricity — but also a significant share of its pollution.

While the EPA said the regulations will not cause the power to go out, almost everyone agrees that it will help close down some of the oldest, and dirtiest, coal-fired facilities. At the remaining plants, operators would have to use existing pollution controls more frequently, use lower-sulfur coal, or install additional equipment. Continue reading

EPA moves to clean up coal plants nationwide

Photo by kym, Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency is gaining ground in its battle against polution emitted from coal plants.  It hopes to finish two measures this week that would help the power plants cut back on their emissions.

McClatchy Newspapers reports:

After years of delays and false starts under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the Environmental Protection Agency is close to finishing two measures to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Health experts say the pollution reductions will save thousands of lives every year by sparing people asthma attacks, heart attacks and other health problems. Coal-dependent power companies that face big bills for new equipment in response to the EPA rules are calling for more time, arguing that electric rates will rise, harming households and industries.

One of the rules, expected in final form as early as Wednesday, would force states in the eastern half of the country to reduce pollutants that travel hundreds of miles to create dangerously bad air days in other states. The other rule, due in November and the subject of much wrangling, will be the first national requirement to reduce mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Continue reading

Study supports Great Lakes’ offshore wind

Photo by gocarts, Flickr

Grant Valley State University recently conducted a study to determine the noise produced by wind turbines, and the visibility of these structures, if they were placed offshore on the Great Lakes. The University conducted this study in large part due to the public’s fear that  turbines would pose an audible and visual disturbance. However, the study concluded that the turbines would only be visible about half the time, and their sound probably wouldn’t reach shore. As the Midwest Energy News reports, this makes the proposed wind farms far less of a disturbance than the coal factories located along the great lakes:

A new study by Grand Valley State University may remind you of an old study by Grand Valley State University. The new one is on the impacts of offshore wind. The conclusion: Not as bad as people might think. The old study: Same bottom line. But will it change minds? Probably not, and that’s a (cough) shame.

The cough is from the coal that powers much of Michigan, and the Midwest. The deal with coal is that it’s been in use a long time, and some people just don’t see the harm it does. Continue reading