New Iowa solar bill looks to benefit municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives

The sun sets over a field in Mount Vernon. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)
The sun sets over a field in Mount Vernon. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | July 1, 2015

Last week Iowa governor Terry Branstad signed a bill that will likely create more opportunities for solar energy in the Hawkeye State.

House File 645 will allow for increased solar energy tax credits in the state and also add production tax credits for utility solar projects. The bill was passed by the Iowa House 88-4 before being approved 49-1 by the Senate. Branstad signed the bill on June 26.

The credit applies to solar arrays of less than 1.5 MW of capacity, meaning it is more likely to benefit municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives as opposed to investor-owned utility companies. The bill also increases the pool of tax credit funds from $4.5 million to $5 million.

“That’s good for the environment and our economy. Solar energy is already working for thousands of businesses, farmers and homeowners across our state,” Iowa Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) said in a statement. In a recent guest column in the Iowa Daily Democrat, Hogg outlined the need for more emphasis on clean energy in Iowa and abroad.

Along with the solar energy bill, Branstad signed four others. The governor currently has 14 bills from the 2015 legislative session awaiting his approval. The deadline for signing these bills is July 15.

Iowa’s climate experts discuss climate change

East Indian Creek in Story County dried up because of this year’s drought. Photo by cwwycoff1, Flickr.

The Gazette has released an article where experts around the state address climate change and its affects on Iowa.

The experts include Iowa State University professor, and Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research member, Eugene Takle. According to Takle, both this year’s drought and the recent wet years Iowa has experienced are consistent with climate change. This is because climate change causes an increase in extreme weather events.

Other speakers in the article include ISU’s Christopher Anderson and Elywynn Taylor, state climatologist Harry Hillaker and state senator Rob Hogg.

Read the story here.

Former Hawkeye football star stumps for solar power

Kimberly Dickey speaks at UI solar press conference
Photo by Brion Hurley

Former Iowa Hawkeye football great Tim Dwight returned to Kinnick Stadium yesterday to propose that the University of Iowa invest in solar energy to power the campus. He was joined by State Senator Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids and Kimberly Dickey, President, of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association as well as UI students Andrew Woronowicz and Allison Kindig.

The proposal calls for 1,240 kilowatts of solar electric power to be installed at the UI in 2013 which would cut approximately $100,000 in current electricity costs annually.

State Senator Rob Hogg said he would introduce legislation next year to finance the three million dollar UI project. “Solar power works to create jobs, reduce energy costs, and meet our obligations to the environment and future generations,” said Hogg. “Let’s turn solar power into Hawkeye power.”

Read more at the Daily Iowan here. Read more at The Gazette here. See a video of the press conference here.

Federal cuts could lead to Iowa flood gauge loss

Photo by Alan Light, Flickr

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported yesterday that the United States Geological Survey could see budget cuts over the next two years that would jeapordize the future of local water gauges.

The Press-Citizen reports:

Funding could be at risk for stream gauges that Iowa officials and even the general public use to monitor river flow to predict flooding and areas in danger of inundation.

The U.S. Geological Survey could see a 10 percent budget cut each of the next two years under a federal budget proposal. In Iowa, that could mean the loss of six of 30 National Streamflow Information Program gauges. They won’t know for sure until a federal budget gets passed, but it is unclear when that will happen.

“There are some real possibilities we are going to lose some gauges unless someone steps up to the plate,” said Greg Nalley, chief of the hydraulic surveillance section in Iowa City. Continue reading

Hogg advocates for sustainability

State Senator Hogg

State Senator Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids wrote an editorial for the Des Moines Register last week discussing the need for flood preparation and a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. 

Check out what he had to say here:

As the floodwaters roll down the Mississippi River, and as Joplin, Mo., copes with a tragic tornado, it is now apparent that we have entered a new era of human history — an era of climate disasters, where human fingerprints are found on disasters previously called “natural.”

Iowa has recently experienced devastating floods like what we are seeing nightly on the news. In 2008, it was not just in Cedar Rapids, but throughout Iowa. In 2010, it happened again, from Cherokee to Colfax, Ames to Ottumwa, the Four Mile Creek neighborhood in Des Moines to Lake Delhi.

We might feel sympathy and even some responsibility as the Mississippi floods our neighbors downriver. But feelings are not enough. In this new era of climate disasters, we need to act – to reduce emissions, to prevent future disasters, and to help victims.

For years, leading scientists have warned that climate change will result in more extreme weather events. In 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that “rising temperatures are expected to increase the frequency and severity of damaging weather-related events, such as flooding or drought.”

Extreme weather events are occurring more often because global warming does not mean slightly warmer temperatures every day everywhere. Rather, it means changes in weather patterns and precipitation patterns. That’s why scientists call it climate change. Continue reading

Lawmakers propose plan to fight floods

The Iowa River. Credit: Jim Malewitz

Though many are looking to cut spending in the news legislative session, several Iowa legislators have proposed a $60 million-a-year plan to mitigate future flood damage, the Des Moines Register reports.

Proponents of the plan say that it will save the state money in the long run that would go towards rebuilding after future floods. Continue reading