January 07, 2021
DES MOINES – The Environmental Law & Policy Center on Jan. 7 released “Iowa Clean Energy Supply Chain Businesses: Good for Jobs, Good for Economic Growth, and Good for Our Environment,” a directory of Iowa’s wind and solar businesses and a policy road map for the state’s clean energy future.
The report lists 113 Iowa clean energy businesses, from small local solar installers to the firms that design, fund and build our massive wind farms. These businesses can be found in all four of Iowa’s U.S. congressional districts, in 56 of the 100 State House districts and in 38 of the 50 State Senate districts.
In total, Iowa has more than 9,800 jobs in the wind and solar supply chain. That’s in addition to thousands employed by other aspects of clean energy like electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and grid and storage technologies.
“More Iowans work in the wind and solar supply chain than work as car mechanics,” said ELPC Executive Director Howard A. Learner. “Bold policy action is necessary to enable Iowa to benefit from a clean energy future as other states are competing for a clean energy economic growth and leadership.”
Iowa has long been noted for forward-thinking energy policy since it set the nation’s first renewable portfolio standard – a statewide target for renewable energy production – in 1983. Last year’s Senate File 583, which provides predictability for Iowa’s solar industry, utilities and customers, passed both House and Senate unanimously. It was the result of Iowa environmental groups, utilities, pork producers, farmers and solar businesses working together for the common good.
However, more work needs to be done to maintain any leadership position. The report outlines eight policy recommendations on areas ranging from tax credits to compensating solar panel owners to the use of native plants around solar panels to make Iowa more energy independent and economically resilient.
“Iowa’s modest renewable portfolio standard of 105 megawatts was set in 1983, met in 1999 and has been exceeded many times over in the decades since,” said ELPC Senior Iowa Policy Advocate Steve Falck, the report’s co-author. “Policymakers should modernize and update the state’s standard, not just to set a higher target, but one that takes into account technological advances made since the 1990s.”
The businesses listed in the report include installers and component manufacturers, but also engineering and design firms, installers, repair services, construction firms and insurers, showing how clean energy spurs job growth throughout the economy.
One of those businesses is Fairfield-based Ideal Energy, founded in 2009 by former Navy SEAL Troy Van Beek. Born in Wisconsin, Van Beek moved to Iowa to join the state’s booming clean energy market, starting with solar, later adding technologies including hydrogen power and battery storage.
Ideal now employs about 25 full-time staff, bringing in teams of local subcontractors on jobs across Iowa and the Midwest.
“Iowa has some of the greatest potential for renewable energy in the nation,” Van Beek said. “We’re a leader in wind power and, because we’re a farming state, we have all the solar potential in the world. When you combine that with hydrogen and battery storage, we have just an unprecedented opportunity to evolve the energy market.”