In contrast to most other states, the development of renewable energy is not new to Iowa. From the proliferation of its bio-fuels facilities for transportation to the in-state electric generating plants, renewable resources play a vitally important role in the further diversification of Iowa’s energy fuel sources. We encourage you to visit the websites of our member companies to learn more about the renewable energy projects each provides. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) also provides a handy interactive map of Iowa’s energy profile.
It is no secret that Iowa is among the nation’s leaders in the installation of wind energy. Wind power systems convert the motion of the air into electricity using a wind turbine-generator. Iowa’s investor-owned energy utilities have long promoted this fast-growing renewable resource.
MidAmerican Energy Company, Alliant Energy and NextEra Energy each have wind energy presence in Iowa. For more on wind energy in Iowa, please visit the “Industry Issues” page and the IUA’s blog post titled “Iowa’s Wind Boom.” You should also check out the Iowa Wind Energy Association at iowawindenergy.org and the American Wind Energy Association at awea.org.
In August 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy released two new reports on wind energy: “2012 Wind Technologies Market Report” and “2012 Distributed Wind Market Report.” The reports can be downloaded from energy.gov/wind-report.
Take a virtual tour of a wind farm (left, courtesy MidAmerican Energy Company) to learn how wind farms convert energy from the wind to reach homes and businesses, see how a wind turbine works (middle, courtesy U.S. Department of Energy.) and watch a video showcasing the sounds of Iowa wind produced to sound like famed Austrian composer Johann Strauss II’s classical song, “The Blue Danube” (right, courtesy Siemens Corporation):
Solar photovoltaics (PV), converts sunlight (also known as insolation) directly into electricity. The power produced depends on the material involved and the intensity of the solar radiation incident on the cell. Photovoltaics have primarily been seen as a distributed technology suitable for residential rooftops and industrial applications. However, there has been a growth of larger, utility-scale systems in certain parts of the U.S. that possess the sufficient sunlight resources needed for such larger projects.
MidAmerican Renewables has 1,271 megawatts of owned solar generation under construction. Topaz Solar Farms, a 550-megawatt photovoltaic power plant being built in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., will generate enough electricity to offset approximately 9.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 25 years. The project will be complete in early 2015. MidAmerican Renewables owns a 49 percent interest in the Agua Caliente solar project in partnership with NRG Energy. The 290-megawatt solar photovoltaic project is being constructed in Yuma County, Ariz., and will be complete in 2014. Agua Caliente will generate enough electricity to offset approximately 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 25 years. MidAmerican Renewables also acquired the 579-megawatt Solar Star Projects, two co-located projects in Kern and Los Angeles counties, Calif. Construction of the solar projects began in first quarter 2013, with the projects expected to be complete by year-end 2015. The Solar Star Projects are expected to offset more than 775,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is equivalent to removing nearly 3 million cars from California’s highways over 20 years of the project’s operation (source: midamerican.com/newsroom/aspx/facts10.aspx). Learn about solar from MidAmerican Solar, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Renewables.
On June 27, 2013, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company issued a news release that states “Together, the Solar Star Projects… are the world’s largest solar power development under construction” and that the announced completion of $1 billion Notes offering for Solar Star Projects “is the largest single project bond financing ever completed for a solar project.” Solar Star Funding, LLC owns the Solar Star Projects and is a wholly owned subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company.
MidAmerican Energy Company announced on January 29, 2013 that a solar array has been installed on the roof of MidAmerican Energy Company’s Sioux City office building. View the solar project. For customers considering the installation of a rooftop solar panel, MidAmerican Energy has on its company website a decision-making checklist to gain a better understanding of the installation process and to track important information.
Although Iowa has a number of large rivers and lakes both within and surrounding our state’s borders, very limited hydroelectric power generation takes place. The few hydropower resources in Iowa tend to be small (typically under 5 MW each) and have a much smaller potential than some other renewable resources. Currently, Iowa investor-owned utilities do not own or operate any hydroelectric power plants in Iowa. To learn more about hydropower in general, visit the National Hydropower Association and the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy division of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Bioenergy refers to renewable energy produced from biomass, which is organic material such as trees, plants (including crops), and waste materials (e.g., wood waste from mills, municipal wastes, manure, landfill gas (LFG), and methane from wastewater treatment facilities). Because of some technical challenges and costs, burning biomass materials for direct energy is not a significant energy resource in Iowa. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an interesting, educational PDF about bioenergy.
Geothermal is based on a simple premise: Below the frost line – usually about six feet deep – the earth is a constant temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. During the winter, a heat pump absorbs heat from the ground and uses it to warm the air in your home. In the warmer summer months, the processed is reversed, taking heat from your home and transferring it back into the ground. Our member company, Alliant Energy, describes how geothermal energy works. Right now, this renewable energy source is more common for private homes, smaller businesses, and other public or private buildings.
Hydrogen & Fuel Cells
Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier (not an energy source) that can be used to power nearly every end-use energy need. Hydrogen can store and deliver usable energy, but it doesn’t typically exist by itself in nature; it must be produced from compounds that contain it. The fuel cell — an energy conversion device that can efficiently capture and use the power of hydrogen — is the key to making it happen. Fuel cells directly convert the chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity, with pure water and potentially useful heat as the only byproducts. Learn about hydrogen and fuel cells production basics at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE also has a downloadable PDF describing fuel cell technology.