Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Chuck Bushman Farm flipped the switch earlier this year on 360 solar panels spread across its chicken barn in Castalia, Iowa.
Each panel is capable of generating 240 kilowatts of power for the supplier of organic milk and chickens. Some days, the solar panels are able to produce more power than what is needed, and the farm banks it for when the demand for electricity exceeds what the panels provide. The farm also has smart meters for the chicken coop and the rest of its buildings to monitor where electricity demand is highest.
The Department of Agriculture provided the funding for the project through its Rural Energy for America Program, whose mission is to help farmers and ranchers install renewable energy technologies and improve energy efficiency. Since its creation in 2002, the program has given rural landowners grants and loans for about 7,000 projects in all 50 states.
But USDA’s ability to carry out projects like the installation of solar panels was left to dangle last night with the expiration of the farm bill. Without a new bill that includes mandatory funding, conservationists warn, REAP and other programs will run out of fuel and USDA won’t meet rural landowners’ demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“There’s a great degree of uncertainty around the program, and word is getting out that funds are getting cut, but USDA still had demand in excess of what the funding would supply,” Andy Olsen, a senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said late last week. “What we really need is for Congress to pass a new farm bill.”
After months of wrangling, mostly on the House side, the sun set on the farm bill at midnight with little fanfare, dwarfed by the larger government shutdown.
This is the second time in two years that Congress has allowed the farm bill to expire. Last year, U.S. farm policy lapsed for three months before Congress early this year tacked a nine-month farm bill extension into larger legislation to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”
Last year’s farm bill expiration was unprecedented in U.S. farm policy history, but this year’s had been long expected as the House has proposed cuts to the bill’s food stamps program. The farm bill’s expiration, though, has been downplayed by senior agriculture leaders in Congress because funding and authorities for major commodity subsidies and food stamps will not begin to expire until the beginning of next year (E&E Daily, Sept. 20).
But several of the bill’s smaller programs — such as those in the energy, conservation, organic and trade-promotion sections — are facing uncertainty at best and shutdowns at worst as of last night’s expiration. For energy programs, it’s a question of funding.
USDA operates seven energy programs, including one that provides loans to biorefinery producers to commercialize the next generations of fuels made from agricultural residues, perennial grasses, municipal solid waste and algae.
Most share a foxhole with REAP, which the department also uses to install pumps at gas stations capable of dispersing higher blends of ethanol.
While they retained their authorizations to operate when the farm bill expired at midnight, the programs are left with a dwindling supply of carryover dollars and no certainty that funding will be available in the future. Planning for future projects will likely become more complicated the longer the nation is without a new bill.
“This year in a couple of the programs we had some carryover mandatory dollars that we were able to utilize. But those opportunities are just about gone,” said Doug O’Brien, USDA’s acting undersecretary of rural development, in an interview last week. “We’re running out of that fuel that is moving these renewable energy programs.”
Rural advocates say the programs are already on life support because of both uncertainty over the farm bill and diminished dollars from congressional appropriators — discretionary funding for REAP this year totaled about $3 million, compared with the $25 million that the farm bill had authorized for each of the past four years.
A year ago, all of the farm bill’s energy programs were among 37 “stranded” programs that did not have an authorization beyond fiscal 2012. While they were reauthorized in the farm bill extension, none of the programs was provided with any mandatory funding.
The 2008 farm bill provided for a total of $255 million in mandatory funds for REAP and $320 million for the Agriculture Department to offer to biofuels producers as part of its Biorefinery Assistance Program.
In the absence of fresh cash, USDA is using carryover mandatory funding from the 2008 farm bill to enroll new participants in the programs, according to the agriculture official. Though the department expected to be able to exceed $35 million this year in grants through the Rural Energy for America Program, energy program accounts are just about tapped out.
O’Brien, whose office administers the programs, said the department is doing its best to work with the funding it’s been given.
“As folks who work in the department, we certainly are cognizant and concerned about what happens about policy in the future,” O’Brien said, “but at the end of the day, we have — and have had — great tools and we’ve just been focused on making sure we’re implementing those in the best way possible.”
The farm bill’s expiration won’t affect ongoing projects but instead hampers the department’s ability to sign up new farmers and ranchers.
“Without the new mandatory funding or appropriated dollars, which is highly unlikely in the short term, they’re essentially not going to run those programs. They’ll remain dormant to nonexistent,” said Lloyd Ritter, co-chairman of the Agriculture Energy Coalition who has worked on four farm bills.
The Obama administration and rural energy advocates are pushing for a farm bill conference committee to include the Senate version of the farm bill’s energy title, which would provide $900 million in mandatory funding for programs. REAP would receive about $48 million a year for the five-year bill’s duration, while the Biorefinery Assistance Program would receive $100 million this fiscal year and $58 million in fiscal 2014 and 2015.
The House version authorizes $1.4 billion in discretionary funding for energy programs but does not provide any mandatory funding.
Stakeholders are simply looking for a clear signal from Congress, Ritter said.
“It’s a very poor way of doing business in the federal government,” he said. “It’s just inappropriate to have programs exist and not exist and exist again. … I don’t think there’s any question it’s turning people away.”
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Environmental groups push for clean water
Rod Boshart Journal Des Moines Bureau
DES MOINES | Iowa environmental groups filed a request with state officials Tuesday seeking to set water quality standards to protect Iowa’s water supply, promote public health and preserve recreation at 159 of Iowa’s publicly owned lakes.
The Iowa Environmental Council and Environmental Law and Policy Center filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Commission calling on the state’s Department of Natural Resources to establish clear, science-based goals to prevent potentially harmful algae blooms and to keep Iowa’s lakes clean and safe for swimming and recreation.
“These standards are focused on helping local communities prevent lake water quality problems that can make recreation less desirable, threaten aquatic life, and put people’s health at risk,” said Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council.
The proposed safeguards, called numeric nutrient criteria, would provide local groups with a way to know if soil and water conservation efforts around a lake are sufficient to achieve needed results, Rosenberg said. They also will help DNR officials write permits to protect lakes by managing pollution releases by industrial sites and municipal wastewater facilities, he noted.
The proposed standards would set goals for measuring of water clarity and the presence of potentially harmful algae, along with goals for total nitrogen and total phosphorus in the lake — pollutants that contribute to algae growth and low water clarity, he added.
Meanwhile, on a separate environmental front Tuesday, more than two dozen Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund members delivered a letter at Gov. Terry Branstad’s Urbandale campaign office demanding the governor support a strong clean water plan between the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure inspections of large-scale “factory” farm operations.
CCI members contended that a draft agreement between the EPA and DNR includes language that stipulates only factory farms with more than 5,000 hogs may receive an on-site inspection by DNR field staffers. They demanded DNR Director Chuck Gipp sign a strong work plan agreement to inspect and permit the 8,000 largest factory farms in Iowa.
DNR Director Chuck Gipp said the Legislature and governor appropriated $700,000 for increased water-quality monitoring and he expects to have seven additional inspectors hired and in the field by November.
Regarding the issue of goals to reduce harmful algae bloom and clean up Iowa lakes, Gipp said his staff will review the petition and respond to it.
“We’ve got a lot of money invested in our lake restoration program in Iowa and improving water quality. We know what an economic benefit it is,” Gipp noted. “We do what we can with what resources we have.”
Lake recreation is a significant economic driver in local communities, supporting an estimated $1.2 billion in spending and 14,000 jobs, according to 2012 estimates by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
In Wednesday’s coverage of President Barack Obama’s Climate Change Plan, the Des Moines Register spoke with ELPC’s Howard Learner, who zeroed in on the promise the plan holds for the region’s renewable energy industry:
“The president’s emphasis on renewable energy is “a big winner for Iowa,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago. In addition to being a major wind energy producer, Iowa also has become a hub for turbine manufacturing, from spinning blades to nuts and bolts.
Opening more public land to wind generation should keep those plants running strong, he said.
‘To the extent that the president’s climate action plan moves forward, that’s good for more wind power developments in Iowa, that’s good for job creation, that’s good for economic growth and it’s good for the environment,’ Learner said.”
Read the whole story at http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20130626/NEWS/306260041/1136/comm06/?odyssey=nav%7Chead.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Iowa View: It’s time for Iowa to lead on climate change
Written by GREGORY CARMICHAEL AND EUGENE TAKLE
Iowa seems to have become a state of extremes.
Last year, record early warmth prompted fruit blossoming in March and corn planting in early April, only to be severely challenged by late freezes and widespread drought. This year, a cold start to the planting season, followed by the wettest spring on record, has delayed planting and produced widespread soil erosion from extreme rainfall.
Last year along the Mississippi River, low water brought barge traffic to a standstill. This year, barges were halted when locks near St. Louis were overwhelmed by rising waters. In recent weeks, both central and eastern Iowa have had major flooding, which might have rivaled previous records if these patterns had persisted one more day.
While a recent arrival to our state might wonder if extreme weather is the norm and a longtime Iowan might question whether a new normal has arrived, all of us are likely asking, “What’s going to happen next?”
Unfortunately, climate science cannot tell us for sure what the next season or year will bring. It can, however, help us understand which way our future weather is trending. Using a mixture of modeling, historic records and field studies, climate scientists investigate how changes to atmospheric processes can affect long-term trends in our state.
These tools, along with years of extensive study, have shown us that heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane and black carbon resulting from combustion of fossil fuels are relentlessly shifting our future toward more extreme events.
Though weather events and climate change are not always related, we know that the last few decades have brought shifts in weather patterns. What we once considered 500-year floods are now occurring much more frequently than expected. Extreme high temperatures are now, by conservative estimates, twice as likely to occur as extreme lows.
Iowa has experienced, first-hand, billion dollar losses due to extreme precipitation and drought. Unfortunately, these events are becoming much more commonplace. While some of these shifts have been caused by natural variations within the Earth’s climate system, we know that human activity is now a leading driver in creating more disruptive weather and climate.
Fortunately, Iowa is in a strong position to be a leader in reducing climate change losses and growing a more sustainable economy.
As one of the nation’s largest producers of wind power, we should ask our federal leaders to establish stronger policies promoting renewable energy. As a center of innovation, we can continue to develop effective flood control approaches that protect our communities, reduce runoff and improve water quality. Finally, as one of the largest agriculture-based economies in our country, we can push the envelope on developing drought-resistant crops and more sustainable land-management practices that protect our soil as well as the health of our waterways.
Though Iowa’s extremes have brought very real and sometimes painful losses to many communities and farms around our state, our suffering need not have been in vain. No matter what tomorrow’s weather brings, our state can become a model of sustainability and energy efficiency so that “as Iowa goes, so goes the nation.”
GREGORY CARMICHAEL is a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa. EUGENE TAKLE is director of the climate science program and a professor of atmospheric science and agricultural meteorology at Iowa State University.
Find this story online at:
Monday, June 10, 2013
1 – MidAmerican Decides Against Iowa Nuclear Plant (Des Moines Register, June 3, 2013)
2 – MidAmerican Energy to Invest $1.9 Billion Building 1,050 MW of New Wind Power Projects in Iowa (Des Moines Register, May 8,, 2013)
This is the impact of effective environmental advocacy, public policy shifts, the prevailing electricity market economics and the prevailing public preferences for renewable energy all coming together. Good for jobs, good for economic growth, good for holding down utility rates for consumers, and good for our environment.
FYI, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway own 90%+ of MidAmerican Energy.
MidAmerican decides against Iowa nuclear plant
MidAmerican Energy says design plan isn’t approved; environmentalists celebrate
June 3, 2013
Written by: PERRY BEEMAN AND WILLIAM PETROSKI
MidAmerican Energy has scrapped plans for Iowa’s second nuclear plant and will refund $8.8 million ratepayers paid for a now-finished feasibility study, utility officials said Monday.
The utility has decided against building any major power plant. That’s because there is no approved design for the modular nuclear plant it envisioned, and there are too many questions about limits on carbon emissions from a natural gas plant, the company said.
“We opted for what was in the best interest of our customers,” MidAmerican vice president for regulatory affairs Dean Crist told The Des Moines Register.
The decision ends, for now, a three-year controversy over the future of nuclear energy in Iowa and how to pay for a possible nuclear plant. . . .
MidAmerican Energy will invest $1.9 billion in wind projects in Iowa
May 8, 2013
Written by: WILLIAM PETROSKI
Gov. Terry Branstad announced Wednesday that MidAmerican Energy will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa for wind energy projects that will be the biggest single economic investment ever in the state.
“As wind energy goes, so does Iowa’s economy,” said Branstad, who spoke enthusiastically about the plans. He added, “Remember, once they make this investment it will be here for the next 40 or 50 years.”
MidAmerican officials said no sites have been selected yet, but they hinted the sites would be in northwest Iowa and south of Interstate Highway 80 in western Iowa.
Branstad, speaking at a late afternoon news conference, said MidAmerican Energy Co. will add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation, consisting of up to 656 new wind turbines, in Iowa by year-end 2015.
The wind expansion will enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years, officials said. Landowner payments totaling $3.2 million per year also are expected as a result of the expansion.
In addition, the expansion is planned to be built at no net cost to the company’s customers and will help stabilize electric rates over the long term by providing a rate reduction totaling $10 million per year by 2017, commencing with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015, MidAmerican officials said.
“As a leader in wind generation, the state of Iowa welcomes the opportunity to expand our renewable energy portfolio. MidAmerican Energy’s proposed project will be the largest economic development investment in the history of the state, bringing needed jobs to Iowa, as well as significant economic benefits,” Branstad said. . . .
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
On June 3, MidAmerican Energy officials said the company has scrapped plans for a new nuclear power plant in Iowa and will refund $8.8 million to Iowa ratepayers. The decision ends a 3-year debate over the plant’s financial feasibility. Read about it in the Des Moines Register.
ELPC and a coalition of public interest, consumer and environmental groups united in opposition to MidAmerican’s plan, which would shift the financial burden and risk away from investors and instead onto Iowa ratepayers. ELPC advocated fully considering and implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency options and will continue to pursue those clean energy solutions.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Advocates say Iowa utility’s plan doesn’t go far enough on efficiency
By Karen Uhlenhuth
An Iowa utility with plans to build a new natural gas-fired power plant is also cutting back on efficiency efforts, in what advocates say is a case of misplaced priorities.
Several organizations have critiqued a five-year energy efficiency plan filed in November by Interstate Power and Light (IPL), one of three investor-owned utilities serving the state. Every five years, Iowa’s large power companies are required to submit a plan to state regulators for reducing energy consumption over the next five years.
Interstate’s latest proposal, to take effect on Jan. 1, left some of the state’s efficiency advocates underwhelmed.
“They’re leaving a lot of energy efficiency that is achievable on the table,” said Josh Mandelbaum, a Des Moines-based staff attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. The center, together with the Iowa Environmental Council and the Iowa Policy Project, last month filed a response to Interstate’s plan.
All three groups are members of RE-AMP, which also publishes Midwest Energy News.
Interstate’s overall goal – to reduce retail sales of electricity by 1.1 percent annually from 2014 through 2018 – would be a slight reduction from the 1.3 percent average annual reduction it achieved from 2009-2012. Iowa law allows utilities to pass efficiency costs on to ratepayers; Interstate proposes cutting those reimbursements from $73.1 million in 2012 to $62.6 million in 2014.
Interstate’s goal falls far short of reductions deemed feasible by a recent study commissioned by the state’s three large utilities. The study, done in 2012 by The Cadmus Group, a consulting firm, estimated that given optimal conditions and aggressive efforts by Interstate, it could cut retail electricity sales by just over 2 percent each of the next five years, or about twice Interstate’s goal.
“We don’t see any good reason why they’re not going after more (efficiency)” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council. “If they’re leaving the most economical and cleanest source of power, then they’re going after sources that are more costly and more polluting.”
Running out of opportunities to save?
Interstate intends to build a 600-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant near Marshalltown, to go into operation in 2017. Baer and Mandelbaum challenge the company’s pursuit of another plant at the same time that, in their view, Interstate isn’t working hard enough to meet future demand through energy efficiency.
“I think the company is focused on that rate of return (from building and operating a new power plant) and not on the environment or the Iowa economy,” Baer said.
Interstate spokesman Justin Foss, however, disputes that characterization.
“Our energy resources plan incorporates efficiency and diversifying our energy portfolio,” he said. “It isn’t either/or.”
The Council contends that several strategies could significantly boost energy savings among Interstate’s customers.
The “key,” according to Baer, is increasing the subsidy to customers who invest in efficiency upgrades such as more-efficient light bulbs and appliances. Currently, he said, Interstate’s subsidies vary, but might average in the neighborhood of 50 percent of the extra up-front cost of efficient products. The Cadmus study suggests that utilities pay 100 percent of those costs.
Although it’s not really clear to what extent Interstate’s customers already have made efficiency upgrades, Baer said there likely are many customers who haven’t moved to more efficient products. Bigger incentives might get them on board, he said, as well as possibly encouraging earlier adopters to embrace more recent or upcoming technological advances.
Foss, however, said further incentives likely would be wasteful and redundant. The greatest efficiencies have been wrung out of the system already, and additional efficiencies would provide lesser results for a greater cost.
In the proposal it filed with the state’s utility regulator, Interstate said, “IPL must dedicate ever greater resources to capturing deeper energy savings from harder-to-reach customer segments and later adopters.”
For example, Foss said, “if you bought a furnace two years ago, and you went from 80 to 95 percent efficiency, and now there’s a furnace out there that’s 97 percent efficient, are you going to replace your two-year-old furnace?
And if you bought compact fluorescent bulbs a year ago, will you – and should you – throw them out now in favor of more-efficient LED bulbs?
“That’s the question people have to ask themselves,” Foss said.
‘Get all savings possible’
Mandelbaum termed Foss’ argument mostly “an excuse” for Interstate’s failure to more aggressively pursue efficiency strategies.
Increased efficiency doesn’t rely only on those customers who’ve already upgraded, said Andy Johnson, executive director of the Winneshiek Energy District, a Decorah, Iowa-based non-profit that promotes energy sustainability.
More customers would move towards efficiency if it were, in a manner of speaking, delivered to their door, Johnson said. In his response to Interstate’s plan, Johnson said utilities don’t provide enough technical assistance to customers. In general, he said, utilities provide audits, reports that typically end up on a high shelf to gather dust.
If utility customers could consult with an energy planner from their community, who would not only assess their current efficiency needs, but also nudge them until they make the improvements, efficiency would take a great leap forward, according to Johnson.
Winneshiek has experimented with what Johnson terms “energy planning,” with the result that 90 percent of 50 businesses that received an energy audit went on to make at least one of the recommended efficiency improvements.
Johnson and other critics say Interstate could achieve more efficiency with a greater focus on industrial and commercial customers. Baer said Interstate should, for example, nudge industries towards construction of combined heat and power plants, which can dramatically improve efficiency by making use of waste heat.
Data centers in particular are ripe for efficiency improvements, critics said. Iowa is attracting a growing number of data centers – most recently Facebook, as well as those of other large institutions such as universities and hospitals.
“It’s a fast-growing energy-use sector,” said Baer. “We think they need to focus on those and get all savings possible.”
The potential is great, said Mandelbaum, given that, per square foot, data centers typically use about 100 times as much energy as more typical offices.
He and Baer also take issue with Interstate’s proposed termination of an incentive for customers who install renewables on-site, which can help offset demand. Interstate launched a pilot project in 2008, then instituted it statewide in August 2011. The company says the program has gotten very few takers, and hasn’t proven cost-effective.
However, Mandelbaum points out that in 2012, the program paid rebates to 57 customers, and that in the first three months of 2013, 32 customers qualified for rebates. At that rate, he said, the response in 2013 would more than double that of 2012.
“That to me is a sign that the program is working,” he said.
The bottom line, Mandelbaum said, is that efficiency planning calls for expansive thinking. The fact that the plan reaches five years into the future, “makes it that much more important that you be aggressive and forward-thinking.”
Story available online at http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2013/05/07/advocates-say-iowa-utilitys-plan-doesnt-go-far-enough-on-efficiency/
Monday, March 25, 2013
Wind Power Is Here to Stay
By George C. Ford
With the recent layoff of 40 employees at Acciona Windpower in West Branch and larger furloughs last fall at Siemens Energy, Trinity Towers and other Iowa wind turbine component plants, the long-term viability of the industry has been questioned.
But analysts who follow the electric power industry are quick to affirm the future of wind power as a long-term source of renewable energy.
“Wind is not going anywhere,” said Shane Mullins, vice president of product development for the power industry at research firm Industrial Info Resources in Sugar Land, Texas. “Many wind turbine manufacturers did not receive any orders after June of last year as developers waited to see if Congress would extend the production tax credit before it expired on Dec. 31. With the extension of the PTC on Jan. 3, wind turbine construction projects that were put on hold last year are going to be dusted off.
“Between now and the middle of this year, we believe there are going to be a lot of projects come off hold and be back on active status.”
The PTC, created in 1992, provides a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour benefit for the first 10 years of a wind turbine’s operation. That has enabled wind to compete with coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants.
Losses and gains
Wind power installations have declined between 73 percent and 93 percent in the years after previous expirations of the PTC.
Congress has restored the tax credit after previous expirations, but not before widespread industry layoffs.
Even with the PTC extended to Dec. 31, 2013, Mullins expects only 3 gigawatts to 4 gigawatts of new wind power likely will enter commercial operation by the end of 2013, compared with about 12 gigawatts that entered service in 2012.
He said many developers and utilities raced to get turbines installed and in service before Dec. 31, which was required to take advantage of the PTC.
“A lot of the projects that came online last year had started construction in 2011,” Mullins said. “Many developers were pulling construction projects out of 2013 to start construction by midyear in 2012.”
Under the latest PTC extension, wind turbine projects need only be physically started by Dec. 31, 2013. Howard Leaner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, said that has the potential to extend new wind farm construction.
“With wind turbine efficiency increasing and with wind having the inherent advantage of zero fuel cost, we see active wind turbine development through the end of 2013 and possibly into 2014 or 2015,” Learner said. “Natural gas prices have been low over the last couple of years, and that’s a good thing for our economy, but who knows what natural gas prices will be in two years, five years or 10 years?”
Learner said wind power can provide a long-term hedge against the volatility of other fuel prices. The nuclear power industry, for example, is facing the potential for costly retrofits in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
“The cost of coal is higher than natural gas right now, and natural gas prices are starting to move up,” Learner said. “Most smart utility managers are adopting a portfolio approach that includes zero-fuel-cost wind power.”
Demand, jobs growing
Mullins said demand for wind energy is going to grow because of increases in state-mandated renewable energy portfolio standards. He expects about 4 gigawatts per year of required utility purchases of renewable energy over the next decade.
“That’s all been met by utilities until you get to the 2015 or 2016 time frame,” Mullins said. “That’s when purchase power agreements are going to start coming out for more wind power.
“Right now, it’s believed this will be the last extension of the PTC for wind. With natural gas prices expected to rise in 2016 and the increased demand for renewable energy kicking in, wind will be able to compete without the need for the PTC.”
At its peak, the wind power industry was responsible for supporting 7,000 jobs in Iowa. Many of those positions were part of a supply chain of more than 50 manufacturers in many large and small communities across the state.
Some wind turbine manufacturers have entered the aftermarket for wind maintenance and repair as a revenue source to get them through a lean period for new turbine orders. David Bennett, energy production and distribution technology instructor at Kirkwood Community College, said the job market is strong for wind energy technicians.
“I have 3,500 job openings posted on my board right now,” Bennett said. “All you have to do is look and be willing to travel. Most of them are not here in Iowa, where there’s only two projects hiring at the present time.
“The first thing that I tell my students is get their passport ready and pack their bags. There are wind energy technician jobs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Portugal, South America and Spain.”
The average annual salary for a wind turbine technician is generally from $35,000 to $43,000, depending on qualifications and experience, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With Iowa getting the largest portion of its electricity from wind than any state, 24 percent, the state could be a net exporter of wind-generated power if the necessary power grid infrastructure existed, said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
“While there are companies like Clean Line Energy Partners stepping in to address that, it takes time to secure (property) easements and it will require time to build transmission lines,” Durham said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.
“We have the retirement of the old coal-fired coal plants and stuff coming out of Washington about emissions reductions, but the infrastructure is just not there for all these clean and renewable energy alternatives. Until that occurs, we’re not likely to see robust growth for wind or other alternative energy platforms.”
Durham said the federal government, which is issuing the mandates, needs to have a national energy policy.
“We also need to know how this energy infrastructure is going to be built,” Durham said. “We have to look at incentives so the private sector will step in and do some of this from a return on investment.”
Available at: http://thegazette.com/2013/03/24/wind-power-here-to-stay-in-iowa/
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Iowa groups want state money for Iowa City-to-Chicago passenger train
By William Petroski
A coalition of activist groups is lobbying Iowa legislators to provide $20 million in state funds to help establish the Iowa section of a proposed Chicago-to-Iowa City passenger train.
The state money is needed to secure an $87 million federal grant already approved for Iowa by the Federal Railroad Administration. Democrats who control the Iowa Senate support the state funding, but Republicans who control the House have had little interest, suggesting that if a passenger train is such a great idea that private investors will step forward.
The groups supporting state money for expanded passenger rail include Iowa PIRG, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers, the United Transportation Union Legislative Board, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. They sponsored a panel discussion on Monday at the Iowa Statehouse, citing the benefits of passenger trains for consumers and for rail freight service.
Amanda Martin, freight and passenger policy coordinator for the Iowa Department of Transportation, said Iowa and Illinois DOT officials are continuing to negotiate on plans for the Iowa City-to-Chicago train. In addition, a consultant is studying the entire railroad route between Chicago and Omaha, following the tracks of the Iowa Interstate Railroad in Iowa, on the potential for eventual rail passenger service. The study is expected to be finished this summer.
Available at: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20130318/NEWS09/130318025/1056/news05
Friday, December 14, 2012
Iowa Environmental, Health Advocates Commend Soot Standards
Cutting Soot Good for People, Good for Planet
DES MOINES – Environmental and public health leaders from across Iowa joined Friday in commending new national standards to improve air quality and cut soot pollution.
“Soot is clogging people’s lungs and harming our health,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “These reasonable new clean air standards will accelerate deployment of better technologies that reduce pollution, improve public health and make the air safer to breathe.”
The standards target tiny pollutants from the burning of fuels like coal and diesel that have been connected to a wide range of harmful health impacts. Public health leaders see an opportunity to improve the lives of people in Iowa.
“The Iowa Public Health Association supports soot standards which safeguard the health of our children, the elderly, and people with asthma and other lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” said Jeneane Moody, Executive Director, Iowa Public Health Association.
“Breathing particle pollution can damage the lungs and heart, trigger asthma attacks and heart attacks, and potentially even cause cancer and developmental and reproductive harm. Assuring safe air quality is key to assuring the health of Iowans,” said Moody.
Jessica Brackett, Executive Director of Clean Air Muscatine, noted that her city is not in compliance with Clean Air Act standards, which should serve as a call to action.
“For the sake of our public health, and our local economy, we must improve our air quality,” she said. “Ultimately, these safety standards will help Muscatine become a healthier community, build a more vibrant local economy, and become a destination city for those who appreciate the magnificence of nature at its finest.”
“Muscatine is much like other river cities. Our economy is fueled by industry with aging equipment, powered by coal, and dependent on heavy industrial and commuter traffic on a poorly designed transportation system, while our breathtaking bluffs exacerbate our air quality issues because of inversion,” added Brackett.
National clean air advocates added their support for the new standards and urged people to fight any challenges the new standards face going forward.
“People everywhere have a sacred right to clean air. Let’s make sure we protect that right here at home and our children will breathe easier,” said Dominique Browning, co-founder of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Moms Clean Air Force. “We cannot allow pro-polluters to weaken the Clean Air Act.