Report shows bright potential for solar energy by mid-century

The Nellis Solar Power Plant covers 140 acres in southern Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay)
The Nellis Solar Power Plant covers 140 acres in southern Nevada and ranks as the 2nd largest in North America. (Nadine Y. Barclay/Wikimedia)
Nick Fetty | September 30, 2014

Solar energy could become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050 according to research by the International Energy Agency.

The IEA produced two reports (one for photovoltaic energy and one for thermal electricity) which lay out ways for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to provide 16 percent of the world’s electricity consumption by 2050, while solar thermal electricity (STE) from concentrating solar power (CSP) plants would provide an additional 11 percent. Solar would replace fossil fuels are the largest supplier of electricity and could save an estimated 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050.

Solar technology has decreased in price in recent years and this trend must continue for the IEA to reach its goals. The potential of electricity production through PV systems has increased significantly since the 2010 report which predicted it would produce 11 percent of the world’s electricity consumption. The new report anticipates that solar will overtake fossil fuels as the top electricity supplier between 2025 and 2030.

It should be noted that these reports offer suggestions for improving solar energy usage based on current and projected trends and therefore are not meant to be forecasts.

In 2012, Iowa’s solar energy capacity was 1.2 MW compared to 5,133 MW from wind power. A report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance projected that Iowa could produce 20 percent of its electricity consumption through solar panel use on rooftops and earlier this year the state’s largest solar array opened in Kalona.


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.

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.

To achieve Obama’s SOTU goal, Iowa may need to invest in solar energy


Photo from the 2009 Solar Decathlon in Washington DC. Credit: F. Delventhal, Flickr.


Former Hawkeye football star Tim Dwight is among those pushing to incentivize solar energy in Iowa

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama set forth an ambitious national goal: to derive 80 percent of electricity from “clean energy” sources by 2035 – a notion praised by a group of key Senators.

“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas,” he told the joint session of Congress.

But for the U.S. to reach that goal, states will need to drastically reshape their economies, and Iowa is no exception.

Though Iowa is now the second leading producer of wind energy in the country, about 72 percent of its energy still comes from coal-fire plants that are often outmoded, according an Iowa Physicians for Responsibility report. To reach Obama’s renewable goal, we may need to look to the sun.  Continue reading