Iowa explores renewable energy storage


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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.

Bill boosting solar energy development gets OK from Iowa Senate panel


Solar Panels at Regions Bank in Waterloo, Iowa.  Photo courtesy of Paul McClure; Flickr.
Solar Panels at Regions Bank in Waterloo, Iowa.
Photo courtesy of Paul McClure; Flickr.

Under this bill, Iowa’s investor-owned electrical utilities would be required to provide their customers with 105 megawatts of solar energy.

The bill is aimed at bolstering Iowa’s solar energy industry, the Des Moines Register reported. 

Tim Dwight, the president of the Iowa Solar/Small Wind Energy Trade Association, said the cost of solar energy is dropping on a monthly basis and is becoming a mainstream method of generating electricity.

Head to the Register to find out more.

Advancing Iowa’s Solar Power


Photo by Luther College Photo Bureau; Flickr
Photo by Luther College Photo Bureau; Flickr

Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center believes Iowa risks missing a key role in solar power.

“It’s time for Iowa policymakers to step up with supportive policies to seize the solar energy development opportunities and reject attempts to impose regulatory barriers that would stifle this clean new technology,” Learner writes.

For the full piece, visit the Des Moines Register.