Wind energy continues to be a competitive and growing industry


P7241025
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


Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 7.49.44 AM
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:

http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/WEIO2014.pdf

www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/name,86205,en.html

http://www.awea.org/Resources/state.aspx?ItemNumber=5224

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.

Iowa prepares for first winter storm of the season


Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr
Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr

The state’s first winter storm of the season is expected to hit Iowa on Wednesday afternoon, and will likely bring strong winds and heavy snowfall in parts of the state.

National Weather Service meteorologist Keven Skow said some areas of the state are expected to receive several inches, and the snow will likely stay on the ground due to sub-freezing temperatures throughout the rest of the week.

“If it falls, it will probably be on the ground through Christmas,” Skow said.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

Wind power tax credit likely to expire


Photo by ali_pk, Flickr.

A 2-cent per megawatt hour production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy has been excluded from the Payroll Tax bill in congress, creating some uncertainty as to whether the credit will be extended before it expires at year end.

“It looks like we’re not going to succeed, despite a valiant effort, as we see the legislation dealing with these tax extenders very narrowly focused,” said Todd Foley, senior vice president for policy & government relations, American Council on Renewable Energy.

Iowa employs about 2,000 workers in the production of wind turbines and towers, and the loss of the PTC could threaten those jobs. However, MidAmerican Energy’s upcoming 407 megawatt wind complex in Adair, Calhoun and Marshall counties will be completed in time to utilize the tax credit before it expires.

“We’ve done some market analysis and there is a cliff, especially for wind after March,” Foley said. “Our research shows there may be a 52 percent decline because of this uncertainty.”

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.