More LED lighting means lower utility bills for livestock farmers


Nick Fetty | September 16, 2014
Livestock farmers are saving money on utility bills by equipping facilities with LED lighting. (Benny Mazur/Flickr)
Hog farmers are saving money on utility bills by equipping facilities with LED lighting. (Benny Mazur/Flickr)

The increased popularity of energy efficient LED (light emitting diodes) lighting has moved to the farm and livestock farmers are saving on utility bills by embracing this trend.

Hog farmers in Iowa have been particularly quick to adopt the new technology. Washington, Iowa-based Sitler’s Supplies has sold more than 10,000 LED fixture and bulb sets in the past 18 months. This is to help accommodate the utility demands of livestock operations which can have up to 600 lights running for more than 16 hours per day.

A 2010 Oklahoma State University study found that cows produced six percent more milk when raised near LED lighting compared to fluorescent lighting. However a University of Florida scientist claims that the evidence is inconclusive and that “[t]he wavelength of light you get and the whiteness from LED should not have an influence.” This was again debated in a 2014 article from LEDs Magazine which suggests LED lighting will “substantially increase the production of eggs, meat, and other protein sources, while dramatically reducing energy use and other input costs.”

Governmental and private entities have also embraced LED lighting in recent years although at $50-60 per fixture the technology is not yet affordable for some farmers. An LED bulb can have a lifespan of about 80,000 hours which is more than double than of a compact florescent.

Iowa farmers have also been proactive in utilizing other energy efficiency measures such as solar panels, geothermal, and methane gas recovery.

Iowa Lakes Community College opens new green building for studies in energy, environment


Nick Fetty | September 2, 2014

The new Sustainable Energy Resources and Technologies (SERT) building  on the Iowa Lakes Community College Esterville campus was not only built with the environment in mind but also aims to prepare students for careers in energy and environmental fields.

The 30,000-square foot facility opened its doors last week and nearly everything on the inside is built from recycled or repurposed materials. The building was originally purchased during a sheriff’s auction in 2010 and was initially used for vehicle storage. Renovation of the new facility began in May of 2013 which included adding an “energy-efficient geothermal and photovoltaic HVAC system.” The building also has solar panels that not only generate energy but also teach students how photovoltaic systems work.

SERT is equipped with classroom spaces and other resources for two-year degrees in Engineering Technology, Electrical Technology, HVAC, Water Quality and Sustainable Aquatic Resources, Environmental Studies as well as Wind Energy and Turbine Technology classes. The college currently has about 60 students preparing to be wind turbine technicians as the industry continues to grow, particularly in Iowa. WindTest, a company based out of Germany, will also test prototype wind turnbines within a 25-mile radius of the campus. The opening of the new facility marked the 10th year anniversary of the college’s wind energy program.

Iowa Lakes Community College enrolls more than 3,000 students and has campuses in  Algona, Emmetsburg, Estherville, Spencer and Spirit Lake. The school opened its doors in 1966 and mostly serves students in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.

Private and community colleges in Iowa focus on green initiatives


Nick Fetty | July 15, 2014
Stewart Memorial Library on the Coe College Campus. Photo by Swagato; Flickr
Stewart Memorial Library on the Coe College campus.
Photo by Swagato; Flickr

Private colleges in Iowa are keeping up with the national trend of increased green initiatives at private colleges and universities.

Coe College in Cedar Rapids is undergoing an effort to decrease consumption of electricity (by 25 percent) and natural gas (by nearly 50 percent) on campus. This is expected to save the college roughly $220,000 annually in energy and operational costs and also reduce Coe’s carbon footprint by about half. Coe along with three other higher education institutions in the state have joined the Alliance for Resilient Campuses.

Green initiatives are taking place at other private schools in Iowa including Luther College which currently has the state’s largest array of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Central College is gradually moving toward an all-electric/hybrid fleet of vehicles and Grinnell College is planning a wind farm north of campus that is expected to produce 80 percent of the college’s energy consumption.

Iowa’s community colleges are also adopting sustainable practices. Cedar Rapids-based Kirkwood Community College is utilizing solar panels and wind turbines to generate energy. More than 675,000 square feet of building spaces is heated and cooled using geothermal energy and a new trash diversion program has decreased the amount of waste sent to the landfill by 80 percent.

The state’s public universities have also embraced sustainable practices. There are currently six gold-level LEED-certified buildings on the University of Iowa campus and two buildings that have received a platinum rating. Next year Iowa State University plans to replace the coal boilers at its power plant with boilers powered by natural gas while the University of Northern Iowa plans to retrofit three buildings in fiscal year 2014 to achieve greater energy efficiency. All three public universities were named to the The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.

Geothermal tax credit aims to diversify Iowa’s renewable energy sources


Geothermal pipe installation. Photo by CSLP, Flickr.

A bill was signed into law this spring that seeks to diversify Iowa’s renewable energy sources by providing a first-ever tax credit for geothermal projects in the state.

Iowa is already a national leader in wind energy, and geothermal installers say this new bill is already helping to increase demand for geothermal energy as well.

“Most [customers] already know that they want geothermal,” said Reed Carlson, who co-founded Geothermal EcoOptions in Decorah, Iowa. “Now they see it and say ‘I can afford to do it.’”

Geothermal systems work by pumping fluid through a system of undeground pipes deep below the surface, where the temperature hovers between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The process mitigates the temperature of the fluid, allowing the system to pump cool water to the surface during the summer, and warm fluid in the winter.

For more information, read the full article from Midwest Energy News.

UI students create energy map for Dubuque


Photo by CERTs, Flickr.

Graduate students at the University of Iowa’s School of Urban and Regional Planning have created a Web-based energy map of Dubuque.

This interactive program allows the people of Dubuque to determine which of three renewable energy sources – solar, wind and geothermal – is optimal for powering their property.

Adding to the energy map’s importance, Dubuque’s coal-fired power plant may go offline within the next handful of years.

Read more from the Press-Citizen here.

New tax credit make solar a better investment for Iowans


Photo by rob.rudloff, Flickr.

Energy companies and lawmakers say a new tax credit will make the installation of solar energy systems on homes and businesses an affordable investment.

“A lot of people have been looking at solar energy systems and now, with the state tax credits, they’re starting to move forward,” Brad Duggan, energy efficiency project manager at Van Meter Inc. in Cedar Rapids said Tuesday. “It makes solar ripe for the residential use. I think it will push the market.”

The credit, which was signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad last week, provides state tax credits for solar electric, solar hot water, and geothermal energy systems – allowing homeowners credits of up to $3,000 per project, and $15,000 for businesses.

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.