July 5 derecho intensity linked to climate change

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | July 7, 2022

A derecho swept through parts of Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota on July 5. South Dakota experienced fallen power lines and trees from wind gusts higher than 90 mph. Huron and Miner, states in South Dakota, had wind gusts higher than 95 mph. The derecho that swept intense wind through the Midwest may be linked to climate change. 

The derecho on July 5 is a progressive derecho, a summertime-occurring derecho fueled by an area that is hot, dry, and contains strong winds. A similar occurrence happened in August of 2020 when a derecho with extremely high winds hit over 700 miles in 14 hours across the Midwest destroying crops, homes, trees, and more. Meteorology professor at the University of Northern Iowa Alan Czarnetzki said, after the 2020 derecho, human-induced warming of the planet’s surface can increase the likelihood of stronger derechos

After the derecho on July 5, scientists also say climate change can increase the intensity of storms like derechos. According to NASA, as the air continues to warm from climate change, other storms including hurricanes may also be affected, creating heavier rainfall and stronger wind. 

In 2021, the world’s surface temperature was 1.51 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eastern Iowa to see wind, record-breaking heat this week

Via Flickr.

By Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 14, 2021

Iowa is preparing for severe weather this week—and not the kind typical of this time of year.

As the second full week of December 2021 begins, Iowans could see record highs for the month on Wednesday. The temperature is expected to reach 70 degrees based on the National Weather Service’s predictions. The typical high is 36 degrees. But that isn’t the only extreme weather Midwesterners can expect this week. Strong and dangerous winds are predicted to reach 40 mph on Wednesday alongside the heat.

The winds follow a tornado that killed dozens across Kentucky last Friday. Tornadoes were seen across five other states as well. Iowans are not expected to see tornadoes this week according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The state could see downed powerlines and trees across the state due to the winds. The Weather Service also warned taller vehicles be wary of traveling. The service has a hazardous weather conditions warning in effect until the afternoon of Dec. 15. The weather will impact plants and crops that are still growing since most of Iowa hasn’t seen its first freeze.

Temperatures are expected to fall on Thursday, however, and come closer to the weather Iowans typically see this time of year. Iowa City has yet to see snow since February. The Weather Service does not have projections for flurries or flakes within the next week.

Wind energy continues to be a competitive and growing industry

Wind turbines are an increasingly common site along rural Iowa roads. (Samir Luther/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | September 12, 2017

The recently released 2016 Wind Technologies Market Report found wind energy to be a competitively priced and growing part of the U.S. energy picture.

According to the annual U.S. Department of Energy report, wind energy is expected to continue being a cheaper option for consumers than other energy sources. Without figuring in federal tax credits and state-run programs, wind energy costs an average of 5 cents per kilowatt hour whereas a highly efficient natural gas power plant charges consumers an average of 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

The authors also found that wind turbines erected in 2016 are taller and more powerful than in years past, allowing them to generate more energy. In the last five years alone, the generating capacity of individual wind turbines has increased by 11 percent.

About 8,203 megawatts of new wind energy was added to the U.S. energy portfolio in 2016, which made up 27 percent of energy infrastructure additions last year. Twelve states now produce more than 10 percent of their energy with wind while Iowa and South Dakota remain the only states that generate upwards of 30 percent of their energy with turbines. Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa have the highest wind-capacity nationwide.

The entire U.S. Department of Energy Wind Technologies Report can be read here.

Iowa leads midwest in clean energy momentum

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The recently released top ten list ranks states not only by current performance but also potential for clean energy development in the future. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Jenna Ladd | April 21, 2017

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published its list of top ten states demonstrating “clean energy momentum,” and Iowa led the Midwest.

States were ranked using twelve metrics that fit into three general categories: technical progress; direct, visible effects on our daily lives; and policies to build momentum for the future. Their publication pointed out that despite recent federal rollbacks of Obama-era climate policy, great strides have been made in renewable energy development. They note that wind farms nationwide produce enough electricity to power 20 million U.S. households. Additionally, they write, enough solar electric panels were added in 2016 to power another two million houses.

The usual suspects led the pack with California at the top of the list. The Golden State is among the top performing states in eight of the metrics and is in the number one position for electric vehicle adoption. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Washington, New York and Iowa complete the top ten list. Iowa is the first midwestern state to appear on the list, followed by Minnesota.

Wind energy has played a fundamental role in Iowa’ development as a clean energy leader. The Hawkeye state was the first to generate more than 30 percent of its energy from wind. Iowa has already seen $11.8 billion in wind project investment alongside the creation of 8,000 new jobs. Moving forward, Iowa is expected to generate 40 percent of its energy from wind by 2020.

“While the federal government can play important roles in making efficiency, renewable energy, and vehicle electrification a national priority, states can be a consistent, powerful, positive force as well,” the report read.

More information about the rankings and the full report can be found here.

USDA awards nearly $70M to farmers for alternative energy and energy efficiency upgrades

Nick Fetty | September 23, 2014

Wind and solar energy work side-by-side in Germany. (Wikimedia)
Wind and solar energy work side-by-side in Germany. (Wikimedia)

Farmers in Iowa will be able to take advantage of recently announced U.S. Department of Agriculture grants and loans aimed at promoting renewable energy and other energy efficiency measures.

The USDA has awarded $68 million for 540 different projects across the country, 50 of which are in Iowa. The funding was made available through the USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Eligible projects include energy improvement projects as well as renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen, and geothermal.

“These loan guarantees and grants will have far-reaching impacts nationwide, particularly in the rural communities where these projects are located,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue the unprecedented increase in home-grown energy sources and American energy independence we’ve seen in recent years. This is creating jobs, providing new economic opportunities and leading the way to a more secure energy future.”

The project also aims to create jobs, particularly for installation of solar panels and many of these positions are expected to be filled by military veterans. The job training program will begin at three military bases this fall and hopes to train approximately 50,000 by 2020.

An 18-page document identifies all of the individuals and businesses applying for funding through REAP.

Earlier this month, the USDA awarded $105 million to a California-based company that will study a way to “convert municipal solid waste into bio jet fuel.”


Poll finds widespread support for alternative energy among Midwest voters

A solar panel array (Maryland GovPics/Flickr)
A solar panel array (Maryland GovPics/Flickr)

Voters spoke out in broad support of energy efficiency and alternative energy sources during a recent round of polls across the Midwest.

The bipartisan poll was conducted earlier this summer to gauge attitudes toward various energy issues, and included interviews with around 2,500 voters from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. Among them, 95% supported increasing energy efficiency, while strong majorities supported increasing the uses of solar (91%) and wind energy (87%) in their states. Only 55% supported increasing coal use, while biomass had the lowest support (50%). Biomass also had the highest number of “Don’t Know/Not Applicable” answers, at 37%, implying some confusion around the energy source.

Attitudes toward solar, wind and natural gas remained about the same from 2010 to 2014, while support for nuclear energy dropped. Support for coal held at 55% over the last four years. However, over 80% of voters wanted to move toward cleaner sources of energy rather than increase coal use. They also viewed renewable energy production as a bigger contributor to their economy than coal mining.

Voters also voiced their opinion on potential policy issues. With the understanding that switching to alternative energy sources may cost more in the short term, 81% were willing to pay an additional $1 per month for energy, and 69% were willing to pay $4 more. They also supported energy measures like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, announced earlier this year.

For the complete report, click here.


Cooler temps offer needed relief for RAGBRAI bikers

Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)
Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)

After enduring two days of high temperatures and gusting winds, RAGBRAI cyclists will get a much-needed reprieve from the heat during Wednesday’s leg of the ride.

Today’s RAGBRAI route takes bikers from Forest City to Mason City, a distance of 38.5 miles. Conditions in both cities are dry and mild, with comfortable temperatures and low wind. Cyclists were greeted in Forest City yesterday by above-average temperatures and wind gusts at up to 30 miles per hour. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for western Iowa Monday and Tuesday which was lifted Tuesday night.

With average summer temperatures in Iowa expected to increase over the next few decades, RAGBRAI will become even more challenging for bikers who make the trek across the state. Extreme heat combined with exercise can cause elevated heart rate, and increased sweating can lead to dehydration and electrolyte depletion, putting even more strain on the heart. A respected cyclist suffered a fatal heart attack during Monday’s RAGBRAI route, the first cyclist to die during RAGBRAI since 2010.

Mahaska County supervisors consider tax abatement for construction of wind farm

Nick Fetty | July 8, 2014

Wind turbines along Interstate 35 in Iowa. Photo by Brian Hoffman; Flickr
Wind turbines along Interstate 35 in Iowa.
Photo by Brian Hoffman; Flickr

During a meeting Monday, the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors discussed offering a tax abatement for a wind farm that RPM Access LLC hopes to build in Mahaska County.

The proposed abatement would reduce the level of taxation placed on RPM Access and Supervisor Mike Vander Molen said this abatement is necessary to make the project feasible. The $290 million project will be dependent upon all landowners involved in the proposal agreeing to sell their land and is expected to bring $60 million into the county over a 30-year span.

Per Iowa Code, the Board of Supervisors must wait 30 days before an ordinance can be adopted. This topic will be revisited during the board meeting on August 18. Construction on the wind farm may begin as early as 2016 and is expected to take about seven months to complete.

RPM Access has 13 projects in Iowa and one in Kansas. The De Soto-based company is also working with Facebook and Google on upcoming operations coming to the Hawkeye State.

On the Radio: Iowa and Global Renewable Energy

Wind turbines near Hampton, Iowa. Photo by Theodore Scott (Flickr)
Wind turbines near Hampton, Iowa. Photo by Theodore Scott (Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment takes a look at how Iowa stacks up against the rest of the world in renewable energy investments and innovations. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.


Script: Global Renewable Energy

While Iowa has been a front-runner in wind energy production, a new report suggests that the rest of the world has lagged behind in adopting renewable energy practices to reduce climate change.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

A new report by the International Energy Agency states that each year about 1.6 trillion dollars is invested in global energy supply. However the Energy Agency said this investment would need to increase by about 400 billion dollars to effectively combat global rises in temperature.

Iowa has been proactive in investing in renewable energy resources which has attracted tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to the state.

Iowa is number one in the nation for percentage of electricity generated by wind energy and is third – behind Texas and California – in the quantity of wind energy produced. In 2014, Iowa had installed more than 5000 megawatts of wind power capacity.

Climate scientists hope that a global agreement on climate change will be reached when government leaders convene in Paris at the end of 2015.

To read the full report, visit Iowa Environmental Focus.org

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Nick Fetty.

For more information, visit:




On the Radio: Iowa State University adds new wind turbine

Photo by Amy Dianna, Flickr.
Photo by Amy Dianna, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses a new wind turbine at Iowa State University.

Iowa State University will increase renewable energy with their first on-campus wind turbine.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Over winter break, Iowa State University constructed their first on-campus wind turbine. The turbine generates enough energy to power six homes for an entire year. It could also power campus buildings such as Catt Hall, East Hall or the Hub for a full year.

The new turbine is a 100 kilowatt unit, and stands about 160 feet off the ground. The university is hoping to eventually receive 15 percent of its energy from wind and other renewable sources. This will reduce the school’s dependence on coal, which releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during combustion.

To find out more about Iowa State University’s renewable energy plans, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.