Iowa solar employment is on the rise


9180614416_142538e199_z.jpg
Most solar jobs are in installation and project development (flickr).

Julia Poska | February 14, 2019

Despite a 3.2 percent drop in solar energy jobs nationwide, solar jobs in Iowa grew 4 percent in 2018, according to the recently released National Solar Jobs Census.

Various solar projects recent years likely contributed to job growth in Iowa. In 2017, Alliant Energy built Iowa’s biggest solar farm on 21 acres near Dubuque, but the Central Iowa Power Cooperative recently announced plans to surpass that record with an 800 acre solar farm in Louisa County in 2020. Solarize Johnson and Linn Counties brought a combined 1,760 kilowatts of residential solar power to eastern Iowa in 2017 and 2018. Ideal Energy in Fairfield is currently building a solar array with special battery storage at Maharishi University of Management as well.

But still, only 844 Iowans are employed in solar. The state ranks 45 in solar jobs per capita despite 2018 growth, according to the census, which is conducted annually by the Solar Foundation.

Overall, U.S. solar employment has risen 159 percent since 2010 and is projected to continue growing. The price of solar installation has fallen dramatically, too. At the utility scale, the cost of a one Watt segment of a solar panel dropped from $4.40 in 2010 to $1.03 in 2018. For residential panels, the cost dropped from $6.65 to $2.89 per Watt.

 

 

 

Iowa’s largest solar project announced for 2019


6898303724_ee5400b2cf_z.jpg
The project might look something like this solar farm in Germany (flickr). 

Julia Poska| December 20, 2018

The new year will be a big one for solar power in Iowa. The Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) recently announced plans to start construction on a 100-megawatt solar farm on 800 acres in Louisa County at the end of 2019. This would be Iowa’s largest solar project to date, and will likely be completed at the end of 2020.

An Idaho company called Clēnera (pronounced clean-era) will develop and operate the farm, to be named Wapello Solar. According to conversions from Clēnera’s website, clean energy generated by Wapello Solar could offset carbon emissions equivalent to driving 8.8 billion miles or 8.5 million barrels of oil over 20 years.

CIPCO will purchase 100 percent of energy produced and share it among cooperative members, including the Eastern Iowa Light & Power Cooperative, which serves the construction area.  Some of this energy will offset the loss of the the Duane Arnold Energy Center nuclear plant in Palo, Iowa, of which CIPCO owned a 20 percent share and derived 20 percent of its generating capacity.

 

 

 

Iowa explores renewable energy storage


14677909174_56dba00f4b_z.jpg
Batteries can make solar arrays productive even after the sun goes down (flickr).

Julia Poska| November 8, 2018

Already a leader in wind energy, Iowa wants to expand its renewable energy portfolio even further. The Iowa Economic Development Authority granted $200,000 to Ideal Energy in Fairfield last month to study “solar plus” systems, solar arrays enhanced with energy storage capacity via batteries.

Without the addition of batteries, these solar grids would only supply power when the sun was shining. The batteries can supply power during outages and at night, and help “shave” energy bills by supplying energy at peak demand hours, when utility costs are highest.

Ideal Energy is currently building a large, 1.1 megawatt solar array with a 1.1 megawatt hour vanadium flow battery for the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. This is the largest solar plus project in the state of Iowa and will cover about a third of the university’s annual energy needs.

Ideal is also installing a somewhat smaller array with a lithium-ion battery at the Agri-Industrial Plastics Company in Fairfield. The battery will provide nighttime power for the company’s 24-hour production lines and save them an estimated $42,000 annually.

With the Iowa Economic Development Authority grant, Ideal will assess and compare the performance, efficiency and maintenance of both systems in partnership with Iowa State University’s Electric Power Research Center. A statewide committee, established by the 2016 Iowa Energy Plan, will evaluate the research to inform future solar plus projects in the state.

 

 

SE Iowa school district to become first powered almost entirely by solar


Principal Jeff Nance stands by one of four sets of solar panels at WACO High School in Wayland. This set operates lights for the school's football field. (John Gaines/The Hawk Eye)
Principal Jeff Nance stands by one of four sets of solar panels at WACO High School in Wayland. This set operates lights for the school’s football field. (John Gaines/The Hawk Eye)

Nick Fetty | June 5, 2015

The WACO Community School District in southeast Iowa may soon be the state’s first to be almost completely powered by solar energy.

This summer construction is expected to begin on a solar farm behind the junior-senior high school building in Wayland. In January the district installed a large solar collector behind the elementary school building in Crawfordsville. School district officials expect that these two project will provide about 90 percent of the district’s electricity needs. Superintendent Darrell Smith estimates the initial project has already saved the district about $20,000. He said his hope is that these projects will serve as not just a clean source of energy for the district but also as a learning opportunity for the students.

“It makes it meaningful when they can see what’s happening and it makes a difference when you talk about science and green power and then say ‘Let’s go look at it,’” he said in an interview with KCRG.

The initial solar system was funded by a one-cent local option tax. The district worked with the Department of Education to procure funding for the second project which was possible through private investors. Both projects took advantage of solar tax credits. On especially sunny days, the panels are expected to generate roughly 110 percent of the district’s electricity needs with the excess energy being solar back to the utility company. Work on the second project is expected to begin in July.

The WACO Community School District serves approximately 500 students in Crawfordsville, Wayland, and the surrounding areas in Henry County.

Iowa farmer uses the sun to power irrigation system


A solar array (h080/Flickr)
A solar array. (h080/Flickr)

A farmer near Sioux City has turned to solar energy to power his irrigation system, according to a report from the Sioux City Journal.

Dolf Ivener recently designed a center pivot irrigation system that runs on a 22-panel solar array in his farm near Whiting, Iowa. The solar panels produce enough power to propel the system around the field while spraying water or fertilizer through its pipes.

While heavy rain and record flooding in the Sioux City area earlier this summer prevented Ivener from getting the most out of his system, he expects the innovation to pay off over the next ten years. Nearly half the cost of installing the solar panels was covered by federal and state grants designed to encourage solar energy use.

The agriculture industry has led the way in solar energy applications, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Farmers in remote areas were some of the first to turn to solar energy as an alternative to kerosene, diesel and propane when grid connections were unavailable. A switch to renewable energy sources like solar could drastically reduce carbon emissions from farms.

Chinese company to provide solar energy for World Cup


Nick Fetty | June 12, 2014
The United States taking on Guatemala during a qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup. Photo by Brent Flanders; Flickr
The United States taking on Guatemala in Kansas City during a qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup.
Photo by Brent Flanders; Flickr

Yingli Solar looks to become the first carbon-neutral sponsor for the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off today in Brazil.

The 16-year old company contributed more than 5000 solar panels and nearly 30 off-grid solar energy systems to provide power for matches at the various stadiums. Yingli – which is the only Chinese company to sponsor the World Cup – is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. The company hopes to not only “use the World Cup platform to increase the awareness toward the functionality of solar energy in day-to-day use” but also to raise brand awareness in the United States as well as globally. Yingli first got involved sponsoring the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and research shows that customer awareness increased 30 percent because of the sponsorship.

A 2010 study found that the World Cup that year created a carbon footprint equivalent to more than 2,750,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The 2014 tournament is expected to create roughly the same carbon footprint.

Governor Branstad hails Iowa’s solar energy progress


Solar energy panels at the Iowa State Fair;  Photo by vanhookc, Flickr.
Solar energy panels at the Iowa State Fair;
Photo by vanhookc, Flickr.

During Iowa Solar Day, an annual event sponsored by Iowa’s Solar Energy Trade Association (ISETA), Governor Terry Branstad and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, said because Iowa is a leader in wind energy, we can use the same road map to become a leader in solar energy as well.

“I see tremendous potential for growth in solar energy as I do in other renewable energy items in our state,” Gov. Branstad said.

Northey expressed support of expanding Iowa’s solar energy tax credit and on March 27, 2014, the bill to triple the tax credit passed unanimously in the Iowa Senate.

Increasing Iowa’s solar energy is an important aspect of boosting the state’s overall use of clean energy, however Iowa has only tapped a small portion of the potential solar energy in the state.

To read the full story, visit the Iowa Environmental Council.