Hawaii received final coal shipment before shutting down last coal-powered plant


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Grace Smith | August 8, 2022

Hawaii received its final coal shipment on July 27 before shutting down its last coal-powered power plant, pushing the state closer to its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2045

180 MW West Oahu Plant, the single largest electricity source in Oahu, is set to shut down in September, when its 30-year purchase agreement expires.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige went to Twitter to express his excitement for this step in history. “This is a huge step forward in Hawaiʻi’s transition to clean energy. In its time, coal was an important resource for Hawaii and I’d like to thank the workers who have run our last remaining coal plant.”

Like Hawaii, other states are pushing for net-zero emissions or 100 percent carbon-free electricity by midcentury, including Rhode Island, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Oregon, as of 2021. 

Common renewable energy sources including wind, solar power, and biogas can generate energy that will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other types of air pollution. In addition, the economy will develop, including jobs in manufacturing and installation, like in San Diego, California. As a city dedicated to 100 percent renewable energy, it has formed 56,000 jobs in the industry of clean energy.

MidAmerican Energy proposes $3.9 billion renewable energy project


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 21, 2022

MidAmerican Energy unveiled a $3.9 billion renewable energy project this week, announcing plans to explore new technologies to decrease the company’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy company filed the proposed project with the Iowa Utilities Board on Wednesday. The “Wind Prime” plan would add 50 megawatts of solar generation and 2,042 megawatts of wind generation in Iowa. The plan would push forward renewable energy goals for the company. According to the Corridor Business Journal, MidAmerican Energy has invested nearly $14 billion in renewable energy projects across the state.

President and CEO of MidAmerican Kelcey Brown said in a press release that the company is working toward delivering 100 percent renewable energy to its customers.

“We are also preparing to meet an important milestone of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” Brown said. “The ‘Wind PRIME’ project will position us and our customers for a sustainable future, while ensuring we continue to deliver affordable and reliable energy.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds supported the plan in the company’s press release. She said MidAmerican is a part of why Iowa is a renewable energy leader. The plan includes funding to examine new clean energy technologies in Iowa alongside wind and solar energy generation. “Wind PRIME” will strive to reduce carbon emissions. MidAmerican hopes the $3.9 billion project will allow the company to hit net zero for its greenhouse gas emissions. If the Iowa Utilities Board votes in favor of the project, the company plans to complete construction on its projects in under three years.

The Iowa Environmental Council is Holding a Clean Energy Talk


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Josie Taylor | November 16, 2021

On Thursday, November 18, the Iowa Environmental Council will hold a two-hour Bright Ideas 2021 event to discuss sources of clean energy in Iowa, like solar and wind power. 

The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Des Moines but has satellite, group-viewing options in Iowa City and Waterloo. Attendees also have the option to watch a livestream that doesn’t allow participation. 

The featured speaker is Destenie Nock, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She plans to address energy equity. 

The in-person locations include a brunch. The cost to attend ranges from $25 for online viewing to $65 for the Des Moines location. Students and young professionals will get discounts.More information is available here.

Alliant Energy has Plans for Iowa’s Largest Solar Power Project


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Josie Taylor | November 4, 2021

Alliant Energy says it will invest $750 million in 400 megawatts of solar power generation and 75 megawatts of battery storage in eastern Iowa, making it the state’s largest solar project to date.

They will file a plan on Tuesday with the Iowa Utilities Board stating its plan for a 200-megawatt installation, part of which would be on the grounds of the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant. The plant in Palo, northwest of Cedar Rapids, is being decommissioned.

Alliant has committed to building 400-megawatts, which would be the state’s largest solar project, said Morgan Hawk, an Alliant spokesman. Once it’s complete, about half of Alliant’s energy would come from renewable sources, which already include 1,300 megawatts of wind energy, Kouba told the Register.

Iowa utilities are investing heavily in renewable energy. The state got nearly 60% of its energy from wind last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

MidAmerican Energy, Iowa’s other large investor-owned utility, has invested mostly in wind, which provides about 80% of its power generation. The Des Moines-based company said this year it’s also investing in about 140 megawatts of solar generation.

What Climate Change Means for Iowa


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Josie Taylor | August 16, 2021

The UN climate report, previously posted on this blog, addresses the risk climate change poses on the world. Moving forward, what does this mean for Iowa? The climate crisis puts Iowa at a higher risk for intense rainfall and flooding. The warmer air will also result in occasional severe droughts, like Iowa has seen this summer. 

Jerry Schnoor, professor at the University of Iowa, said in an op ed with the Des Moines Register that Iowa has decreased greenhouse gas emissions by five percent in the last 10 years. In order to reach climate stability in the future, Iowa needs to decrease emissions by 50 percent in the following 10 years, and down to net zero in 30 years.

Jerry also says the climate disasters happening around the world can no longer be called “natural disasters” because “the human element is so strong.”

Decreasing use of coal, like Iowa is currently doing is a helpful tactic for reducing emissions. Right now, the majority of Iowa energy comes from wind, but in order to continue the decrease of emissions, solar energy needs to implemented at a much higher rate.

Taking action against climate change may seem difficult or expensive, but in the long run it will create jobs, stability and will create better health for everyone. The money and resources needed for Iowa to lower greenhouse gas emissions are worth it.

Environmental council suggests Iowa’s utilities should speed up retirement of coal usage


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | June 17, 2021

Iowa should speed up the disuse of coal plants in the state according to new analysis from the Iowa Environmental Council.

The council said Iowa’s investor-owned utilities do no need coal power to meet the demands of residents. Steve Guyer, the council’s energy and climate policy specialist, said there are options to help Iowa build on its wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources, including power generated with hydrogen and battery storage of electricity. These energy options are enough to meet the needs of Iowans.

The Iowa Environmental Council is also joining forces with the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Sierra Club to appeal a decision by the Iowa Utilities Board that allowed MidAmerican Energy Company’s coal plants to evade reviews this year. The lawsuit is leaning on Iowa’s law that requires biennial review of plants to manage coal emissions, suggesting the MidAmerican company ignored options to retire coal plants and decrease emissions.

MidAmerican is the largest carbon polluter in the state according to the council, due to its owning and operating of five coal plants in Iowa. The company has no plan to retire the use of coal regardless of the council’s new analysis. The lawsuit was filed in a Polk County District Court on June 11.

MidAmerican has invested in the use of wind and solar resources in recent years, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The company has retired four coal plants in the last six years, but Guyer said coal is not needed at all in the state and no longer creates an effective “base load” of electricity.

Residents of Palo are Concerned about Possible Solar Project


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Josie Taylor | May 31, 2021

On Tuesday night in Palo, IA, over 100 residents attended a meeting with Linn County officials to ask questions and voice concerns about a possible new solar project. 

NextEra Energy has the goal of transforming the Duane Arnold Energy Center into a solar farm. 

The Palo Community Center was filled with both residents of Palo and nearby areas as Linn County officials presented the solar farm permitting process to the community. The meeting’s purpose was to explain the process because the county has not received any project applications. The solar project would be across 3,500 acres at and near the decommissioned nuclear plant in Palo, according to project manager Kimberly Dickey.

Charlie Nichols told The Gazette that once an application from a developer is received, a review committee would be held the first Thursday of the month following the application. After that, it goes through planning and zoning and then to the Board of Supervisors. A large-scale utility like this also would need to be approved by the Iowa Utilities Board.

Nearly all residents at the meeting opposed the project. They also had questions and concerns about things like the environment, agriculture, and more. 

Among the people who were open about concerns to the county officials was Palo Mayor Eric Van Kerckhove. “My concern is the future of growth,” he said. “I feel this could limit our ability to grow, which grows our tax base.”

Des Moines City Council Approves Transition to 100% Renewable Energy


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Nicole Welle | January 14, 2021

The Des Moines City Council unanimously approved a resolution this week that aims to transition all Des Moines homes and businesses to renewable energy by 2035.

Environmental activists celebrated the resolution, and more than 40 businesses in Des Moines endorsed it. Councilman Josh Mandelbaum, who introduced the resolution, said that it was made possible in part by MidAmerican Energy’s investments in renewable energy sources. MidAmerican is working toward the goal of producing all of its power from renewable sources, and it plans to close all of its coal and gas plants once renewable energy transmission and storage technology improves enough to meet demands, according to an Iowa Capital Dispatch article.

Des Moines has already implemented changes in recent years to become more environmentally friendly, and this resolution will push the city closer to that goal. Frank Cownie has advocated for the city to reduce carbon emissions since becoming Mayor of Des Moines in 2004. He pledged to honor the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement after Donald Trump announced the United States’ departure from the climate pact in 2016, and the city passed an ordinance in 2019 that requires large businesses to inventory and submit their greenhouse gas emissions and water use annually. In a statement to the city council, Cownie said that local governments play an important role in promoting sustainability and climate change mitigation. They are often tasked with addressing the impacts of extreme weather events caused by climate change, so steps like these are becoming increasingly important.

By approving the resolution, Des Moines will join over 170 other cities across the country that have already made 100% clean energy commitments. Some council members had previously expressed concern over the cost associated with the goal and resisted pushing for even faster action by leveraging the city’s partnership with MidAmerican Energy. However, by working with MidAmerican and other parties to meet the 2035 goal, Des Moines will likely save energy users money in the long run. Renewable energy projects are also likely to create jobs and attract businesses and residents to the Des Moines area in the future.

Proposed Climate Resolution Triggers Debate in Des Moines City Council Meeting


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Nicole Welle | December 10, 2020

Des Moines city council members debated a proposed city resolution that would transition the city’s electric users to 100% renewable energy by 2030 earlier this week.

Councilman Josh Mandelbaum, who supports the proposal, debated with Councilman Joe Gatto over a potential conflict of interest. Gatto accused Mandelbaum of the conflict because Mandelbaum is the senior attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center’s Des Moines office, a non-profit organization that supports renewable energy, aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the retirement of coal plants. Gatto said he would not support any resolution Mandelbaum writes because of his ties with the organization, according to an Iowa Capital Dispatch article.

After hearing about the proposal, MidAmerican Energy warned that the move could be too bold. The company is a large, investor-owned utility and has a powerful political presence in Iowa, and council members in the meeting expressed the importance of passing a resolution that MidAmerican will agree with in. MidAmerican has retired some of its coal plants across the state and invests heavily in wind energy, but it expressed concern over the cost of Mandelbaum’s proposal, saying that monthly electric bills would more than triple for homeowners under his plan. MidAmerican suggested adding small modular nuclear power stations to help meet the plan’s emissions goals and lower costs, and it said it would continue to shift away from coal power over time rather than rushing it to avoid blackouts.

Councilwoman Linda Westergaard sided with Gatto in opposing the resolution, and she called for a more cost-effective proposal that aligns with MidAmerican’s goals. Other officials in the meeting echoed her desire for a more conservative approach while some, like Jeremy Caron, Des Moines’ sustainability program manager, expressed the need for “bold but achievable goals.” Caron said that a bold plan like Mandelbaum’s could attract workers to the city and give it a reputation as sustainable.

Mandelbaum added that his proposal would increase jobs in renewable energy and bring in federal aid since it aligns with the Biden administration’s commitment to reducing emissions. However, it is unlikely that the council will have a final proposal ready by the end of the year as planned, and discussion will likely continue into 2021.

Wind Energy Outpaces Coal in Iowa’s Energy Usage


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Maxwell Bernstein | April 24, 2020

Wind energy is now the largest single source of electricity in Iowa, according to a press release from the American Wind Energy Association. Iowa generated at least 10,000 megawatts of wind energy, which accounted for at least 40% of Iowa’s total electricity in 2019. 

In 2018, coal was the primary fuel for Iowa’s electric grid and accounted for 45% of energy production in the state but was declining according to The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The 2018 report showed that Iowa had the second highest share of wind turbines for any state, where 4,700 wind turbines produced 34% of the state’s total electricity.

Coal produced 33% of total U.S energy related CO2 emissions in 2018 according to an EIA report. Wind energy does not produce emissions but does have issues related to noise production according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. These noise issues do not affect health and can be mitigated by technological advances and community planning. 

The rising use of wind and solar energy in our power grid reduces cost, reduces heat trapping emissions that contribute to Earth’s warming climate and improves public health, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists