Iowa lawmakers, advocates reach compromise on controversial solar bill

The Solar Act would promote the viability of private solar panel ownership in Iowa (via flickr). 

Julia Poska | March 10, 2020

Iowa legislators have reached a compromise on last year’s controversial “Sunshine Tax” bill. The Iowa Capital Dispatch reported Friday that both legislative chambers have unanimously approved bill versions of the“Solar Act,” which are awaiting Gov. Reynolds’ approval.

According to the dispatch, the act would allow owners of home, business or farm solar arrays to continue selling excess energy to utility companies at the retail rate. Last spring, a controversial bill proposed an extra $300 annual fee for solar customers who sell excess energy, meant to cover the cost of using the electric grid. Critics said the fee would make it much harder for private owners to pay off their investment into solar, essentially killing the largely private solar industry in Iowa.

The new version also orders an independent cost-benefit analysis of solar power in Iowa, meant to make sure all parties pay their fair share. Following the study, the Iowa Utilities Board would make a recommendation for reasonable billing methods. Existing solar owners would be immune to recomended changes in billing methods.

MidAmerican Energy parent to invest $15 billion in renewables

(Don Graham / Flickr)
(Don Graham / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | July 28, 2015

The parent company for MidAmerican Energy has pledged to invest $15 billion in renewable energy construction and operation, in addition to another $15 billion already invested through 2014.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which acquired MidAmerican in 2000, recently joined twelve other behemoth U.S. companies including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Walmart in the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a partnership that aims to help the Obama administration reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28% by 2025. The pledged investments would help Berkshire Hathaway expand its wind portfolio to 57% of its total retail energy load by 2017.

The company would also expand its investments in solar energy and, perhaps most importantly for Iowans, make infrastructure improvements that would help better integrate renewables into the existing power grid. Elsewhere in the country, Berkshire Hathaway plans to retire 75% of its energy produced from coal in Nevada by 75%.

Several of the companies that signed the pledge Monday have a significant Iowa presence, including Cargill and Google. Google boasts a 35% renewable energy rate for all of its operations, but hopes to reach 100% renewables. Cargill claims 16% energy efficiency gains since 2005, and aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from beef production.

On the Radio: MidAmerican Wind Energy

Photo by ali_pk; Flickr

This week’s segment talks about MidAmerican Energy’s future wind turbine plans for Iowa. Read the transcript below, or listen to the audio hereContinue reading

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.

MidAmerican reviewing nuclear options

An interior view of MidAmerican’s Walter Scott Energy Center near Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The Iowa Legislature adjourned last week, but did not take action on a bill that would create a regulatory structure for MidAmerican Energy’s proposed nuclear power plant. Officials at the utility said they are reviewing their options.

“We are evaluating future options, and at this time it’s premature to speak in detail about those plans,” said Tina Potthoff, media relations manager for MidAmerican Energy. She said the company likely will hold internal meetings to decide how to proceed.”

MidAmerican has been exploring new technology in the field of nuclear power, including small modular units that, while less expensive than larger reactors, also produce less energy. The utility estimates that the new nuclear facility will cost between $1 billion and $2 billion.

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

Iowa to construct 176 new wind turbines in 2012

A wind farm in Iowa. Photo by jenpilot, Flickr.

Last week MidAmerican Energy Co. announced that it will build 176 new wind turbines in Tama, Marshall, Audubon, Guthrie, and Adair counties this year. The turbines will have a combined generating capacity of 407.1 megawatts.

This addition will boost Iowa’s total wind generation capacity to 4,082 megawatts, maintaining the state’s second place position among the states in wind energy. Iowa is lead only be Texas, with 10,223 megawatts.

The new turbines will also bring MidAmerican’s total wind generating capacity to a total of  2,284 megawatts – the most of any investor-owned utilities in the United States.

“Wind is a viable renewable energy resource that enhances our energy portfolio, providing additional generation at a reasonable cost for our customers,” said Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy. “These projects also fulfill our commitment to Iowa regulators and our customers.”

Depending on electricity use, one megawatt can power between 300 and 800 homes.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

MidAmerican purchases massive solar power plant

Photo by World Bank Photo Collection, Flickr

MidAmerican Energy Holdings is set to add solar power as an energy source. Iowa’s largest electric and gas company is purchasing a photovoltaic power plant in San Luis Obispo County, California.

This plant is one of the two largest photovoltaic facilities in the world.

MidAmerican – already a wind-powered energy leader – made this purchase in order to increase their renewable energy sources.

For more information on the purchase, read the Press-Citizen’s article here.