Power Struggle in Iowa

Timlynn Babitsky | Issues: Strategies & Tactics,Why here? | Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

by Timlynn Babitsky
Depending on your source, Iowa is now either #3 or #4 in the country in wind energy generation. Add to that the Iowa Power Fund, Iowa’s $100 million renewable energy research and development initiative, and Governor Chet Culver’s mission to make Iowa “…the nation’s undisputed renewable energy leader.” Given all that, you’d think that Iowa is a GREEN POWER haven! Not so! There is a battle going on and you can help.

On the green side:
Iowa Governor Chet Culver has stated, “My goal is that 25 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2025.”

There are 1,000 wind turbines in operation and five wind technology companies located in Iowa. And, the state is currently one of only two in the US that are manufacturing turbines, blades and towers – the three main components needed for wind energy.

Wind power has already been very, very, good to Iowa. Clipper Windpower, a California-based company, opened its Cedar Rapids Iowa plant in 2006. The 330,000-square-foot facility employs 300 workers, built 150 of Clipper’s 2.5-megawatt turbines in 2007, and is on track to make more than 300 wind turbines in 2008. The company plans to double production to 600 turbines by 2010 and wants to open a second plant by 2010.

Wind power related jobs come with production facilities. Plant manager Bob Lloyd, says that companies like Clipper Windpower will need turbine operation and maintenance specialists, electrical assemblers, electrical engineers, mechanical assemblers, mechanical engineers and procurement/supply chain professionals to reach production goals. And that’s just for producing turbines. A whole other range of job specialties are needed to assess, site, install and maintain those turbines wherever they go afterwards.

Wind power related posts on this website point to the potential for Iowa to be really on the leading edge of wind energy with the Iowa Stored Energy Park – one of only three in the world.

And Governor Culver says,

“A recent study showed that there will be more than $20 billion of wind projects undertaken within 600 miles of Iowa in the next seven years. We can use these opportunities to meet Iowa’s energy needs and chart our own course towards energy independence.”

So with all these pluses for Iowa in wind energy, why is it that a dark cloud hangs over this green-goal state?

Why is it that the current Iowa legislative session has been “very disappointing legislatively” regarding renewable energy issues?

The aggregation of the large utility companies around coal captured the attention of legislators. We couldn’t get much traction around renewable energy,” claimed Ed Woolsey of Green Prairie Energy, on Iowa Public TV’s “Wind Energy in Iowa” (#153) show on The Iowa Journal.

The Iowa Public Interest Research Group claims that:

  • Iowa utility companies, and even out-of-state power companies are proposing new coal plants across Iowa.
  • Iowa gets nearly 90 percent of electricity from coal, despite vast wind, sun and biomass potential.
  • Iowa’s power comes from coal imported from other states. Iowans pay $310 million to import that coal. 
  • Iowa power plants emit over 125,000 tons of soot forming sulfur dioxide, and 39 million tons of global warming pollution.
  • Iowa could produce nearly five times its electrical power needs from wind alone, which would allow us to export clean power to other states.

Do we really need more coal plants in Iowa?

According to Ed Woolsey,

  • It takes 7 years from planning to actually building a large scale wind energy production facility.
  • The European Model – distributed wind systems – can be built faster than a large scale facility and increase our wind capacity sooner.
  • Distributed wind systems are small – from one to a small handful of turbines; community owned wind generation; schools, communities, hospitals, plants – each generating their own power.
  • We need to move toward more widespread adoption of distributed wind systems in Iowa.
  • We need to rally the general population so that many voices are heard in the Iowa capital.
  • We need to make wind energy a campaign issue.
  • AND, we need to organize at the grassroots level to push adoption of wind power in Iowa from the bottom up.

So what can you do? Take a look at our Seventeen Steps to Success and put on your thinking caps. You CAN make a difference!

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