Iowa’s largest solar farm opens in Kalona

Nick Fetty | July 31, 2014

The largest solar array in Iowa will host its grand opening today in rural Kalona, approximately 25 miles southwest of Iowa City.

The array will feature 2,900 solar grids spread across roughly 4.5 acres. This is almost three times the size of the state’s current largest solar array located on the north edge of the Luther College campus in Decorah. The Kalona farm is expected to generate about 1.1 million kilowatt hours per year which is enough energy to power roughly 120 homes.

The project is a collaboration between Farmers Electric Cooperative and Eagle Point Solar. Farmers Electric Cooperative was formed in 1916 and is based out of Frytown just north of Kalona. The cooperative provides electricity for about 650 members in rural eastern Iowa and aims to generate 15% of its energy using renewable sources by 2025.

Eagle Point Solar is a Dubuque-based solar panel company with more than a dozen projects in Dubuque, Peosta and New Vienna in Iowa as well as Galena and East Dubuque in Illinois. Earlier this month, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Eagle Point Solar was not violating state law by selling electricity to the city of Dubuque generated by solar panels on the roofs of city buildings. The ruling was viewed as a major win for solar energy advocates.

In an editorial published in the Des Moines Register, CNA Corp.’s Military Advisory Board member Ronald Keys said renewable energy sources such as the Kalona solar farm “is good not just for Iowa’s economy and environment, but it also helps set the tone for how to secure our nation’s energy, economic and security future.”

Critics say utility policies hampering sustainability efforts at Luther College

Nick Fetty | June 26, 2014
A wind turbine near the Luther College campus. Photo by Ellen Macdonald; Flickr
A wind turbine near the Luther College campus.
Photo by Ellen Macdonald; Flickr

Officials at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa have proposed a 1.4 MW gas turbine project which could produce half the electricity used on campus each year but current utility rates and policies make this project not feasible.

The project could also provide heat for the campus through a process known as cogeneration. However, officials with the school have determined this project would not be feasible based on current rates that Alliant Energy charges for sporadic use of grid power or “the standby rate.”

Luther College consulted the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois-Chicago to conduct a feasibility study. The study found that the project would take 55 years to pay for itself based on Alliant Energy’s rates compared to the 15 years it would take based on rates through MidAmerican Energy.

The college currently has numerous sustainability measures such as utilizing wind and solar power as well as recycling and composting. A report by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment states that Luther College has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent since 2003-2004 and Luther was one of five Iowa institutions named as top green schools in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.

Frigid weather threatens Decorah eagle eggs

Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.
A bald eagle nest in Iowa.
Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.

This winter’s polar vortex is expected to generate subzero low temperatures and daytime temperatures hovering around ten degrees for over a week, threatening the Decorah eagle’s eggs.

The pair laid their first egg on Sunday and more are expected to arrive this week.

In order to keep the eggs from freezing, one of the parents will have to stay on the nest at all times.

To read more about the Decorah eggs in peril, head to the Gazette. Or, the eagle pair and their nest can be live streamed here.


Luther College builds Iowa’s largest solar array

Photo courtesy of Luther College.

The largest solar energy production site in the state will be brought online later this month on the campus of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

The new $1.2 million solar energy field will consist of 1,250 separate solar panels, and is part of Luther’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by the year 2030. The field will provide electricity for Baker Village, an all-electric student housing facility.

“It’s a big thing to show students that we can have a 0 percent carbon footprint,’ said Jim Martin-Schramm, who teaches a Luther course on ethics, energy and climate. ‘The project has educational value in addition to economic and environmental value.”

For more information on Luther College’s sustainability efforts, visit their website.

Green Iowa Americorps to host Upper Iowa River Cleanup

Photo by vastateparksstaff, Flickr.

Green Iowa Americorps is hosting the Upper Iowa River Cleanup on June 9th and 16th at 1 PM.

Volunteers will remove trash while paddling down the Upper Iowa River in a provided canoe or kayak.

On June 9th, the volunteers will meet at Pulpit Rock in Decorah. On the 16th they will meet at Decorah’s Upper dam. Find directions and details about these locations here.

Sign up to volunteer via Facebook here, or email Josh at

Decorah Eagle Cam eaglets arrive

Photo captured from the Raptor Resource Project's Decorah Eagle Cam.

The Raptor Resource Project welcomed two new eaglets into the Decorah Eagle Cam family this week, with a third and final eaglet expected to arrive very shortly.

Millions of viewers worldwide have tuned in to the Decorah Eagle Cam since its installation in 2009.

Watch the live cam here, or continue reading for recorded videos of the eaglets hatching.

Continue reading

Decorah Eagle Cam spies two new eggs

Photo captured from the Raptor Resource Project's Decorah Eagle Cam.

A pair of eggs were recently discovered in the nest of a famous Iowa bald eagle family, and thousands tuned in to observe the birds via a webcam installed by the Raptor Resource Project.

The first egg was laid on February 17th, and the second egg was laid on February 20th.

The webcam has earned the birds a fair bit of national attention – millions of viewers have accessed the camera since it’s installation in 2009.

For more information, and to view a live stream of the eagles, check out the Raptor Resource Project’s Decorah Eagle Cam.

On the Radio: Decorah highlights sustainable living

Photo by marina, Flickr.

Check out this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below.  It features our latest sustainble city – Decorah.

Did you know you can make compost out of worm waste? Many residents in Decorah know it after the third annual Decorah Iowa Green Initiative. Continue reading

On the Radio: Decorah – Striding toward sustainability

Photo by marina, Flickr

Listen to this week’s radio segment here.  It features our latest sustainable community – Decorah.

Just south of the Minnesota border, a small Iowa town is leaping toward sustainability.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus on sustainable communities.

Iowans know Decorah as home to Luther College and as a center for Norwegian-American culture. But perhaps we should add another item to its list of distinguishing traits – greenness. Continue reading

On the Radio: UI students help Iowa communities go green

Listen to this week’s radio segment here.  It features the work of some UI students in Burlington, Charles City, Decorah and Oskaloosa.

For the past two school years, second-year students at the UI School of Urban and Regional Planning have helped Iowa towns plan for a cleaner, healthier future. Continue reading