Iowa Environmental Council welcomes three new board members

During elections in April, the Iowa Environmental Council’s organizational members approved three candidates to join the Council’s board:



Ross Baxter is a land projects associate at the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation focusing on land acquisition projects throughout Iowa. An Iowa native from Alta Vista, he holds a BA from Iowa State University and a JD from Drake University Law School. Baxter will represent of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.



Sondra Krueger Feldstein operates SalAmander Farms near Bondurant, Iowa, which raises vegetables, seeds and transplants, and lamb for direct sale. About her farm, she writes, “My goal is to run a sustainable farm. With that in mind, my farming practices take into account the interrelated needs of yield; nutritional quality; soil health; insect & bird populations; water, soil and air pollution; and profitability.” Feldstein will represent Practical Farmers of Iowa.



Kevin Nordmeyer, AIA, LEED BD+C, is an associate principal at the Des Moines office of BNIM, a regional architectural firm based in Kansas City. Nordmeyer previously served as director of the Iowa Energy Center and has extensive experience in energy efficiency and renewable energy. He has previously served on the Council’s board. Nordmeyer will represent the American Institute of Architects – Iowa Chapter.

The Council’s board is made up of at large members who are selected for their expertise and passion for environmental issues in Iowa as well as representatives of the Council’s member organizations.  Each of these new board members will serve as organizational representatives.

At statehouse, Governor Branstad, Ag. Secretary Northey hail Iowa’s solar energy progress

Update:  In an exciting series of events, SF2340 passed both the Iowa House and Senate on April 24 and 25, and both chambers agreed to triple the credit to a cap of $4.5 million annually.  The bill is now in the hands of the Governor for signature.

Our previous story begins below:

Iowa is already a leader in wind energy and can use the same road map to become a leader in solar energy as well, said Governor Terry Branstad, addressing solar industry leaders April 9 in the statehouse rotunda.

solar“I see tremendous potential for growth in solar energy as I do in other renewable energy items in our state,” the Governor said, noting that he and his staff are closely watching SF2340, a bill to expand Iowa’s solar tax credit pending in the legislature and are “hopeful” about its prospects.

The Governor made his remarks alongside Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey during Iowa Solar Day, an annual event sponsored by Iowa’s Solar Energy Trade Association, ISETA.

The Governor made his remarks as solar energy continues to show strong growth in Iowa, generating strong interest from electric customers around the state.  Secretary Northey and other lawmakers had the opportunity to see that growth up close on a tour of farm and rural solar installations held in Washington County on March 21. Watch coverage of the tour from KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids to learn how solar energy benefits farmers.

At the statehouse Wednesday, Secretary Northey also expressed support for expanding Iowa’s tax credit and reflected on his conversations with farmers in Washington County.

“All of them are excited about [solar],” he said.  “It’s working the way they wanted it to work; they’re seeing the numbers they thought they wanted to see.”

Tour participants gather in front of a 17 kW array at Paul Reed's farm in Washington County.  From left to right: Ken Reed, Paul Reed, Unidentified, Rep. Sally Stutsman, Rep. Dave Maxwell, Rep. Curtis Hanson, Tim Dwight, iPower, Rep. Jarad Klein,  Denny Harding, Iowa Farm Bureau, Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Sen. Ken Rozenboom

Tour participants gather in front of a 17 kW array at Paul Reed’s farm in Washington County. From left to right: Ken Reed, Paul Reed, Unidentified, Rep. Sally Stutsman, Rep. Dave Maxwell, Rep. Curtis Hanson, Tim Dwight, iPower, Rep. Jarad Klein,
Denny Harding, Iowa Farm Bureau, Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Sen. Ken Rozenboom.

The March tour was the fourth in a series hosted by local legislators and sponsored by the Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, and ISETA.  Most recently, in November, legislators attended a tour of Des Moines-area installations.

Many Iowa lawmakers are taking note of solar energy’s promise in the state.  The bill to triple Iowa’s solar energy tax credit, SF2340, passed the Iowa Senate unanimously on March 27.

Soon after, two Senators, Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) and Mike Breitbach, (R-Strawberry Point), explained their support of the bill in a Des Moines Register op-ed:

“Clean local power is something all kinds of Iowans can agree on — families, farmers and businesspeople; rural residents and city dwellers; even Republicans and Democrats.” … “Iowans recognize the growing potential to save money while generating power where they live and work.  Lawmakers are realizing they can help. Together, we can build a brighter energy future for Iowa — and a stronger economy as well.”

Governor Branstad held a ceremonial signing ceremony recognizing the passage of the new solar tax credits on Tuesday, June 26.

Governor Branstad (seated) held a ceremonial signing of the new solar tax credits in June 2012.  Since then, demand for credits has surged.

Since Governor Branstad signed Iowa’s solar tax credit into law in 2012, $2.84 million through the program has supported 622 solar projects worth more than $24 million.

Demand for the tax credit has dramatically increased in the last year, more than doubling from 2012 to 2013, and exceeding the tax credit program’s cap by almost $700,000.

Strong demand for tax credits is just one piece of evidence that Iowa’s use of solar is taking off.  Already, an Iowa Environmental Council analysis of utility records for our report Real Potential, Ready Today: Solar Energy in Iowa showed that the number of solar energy installations connected in Alliant and MidAmerican Energy’s service territories grew from fewer than ten in 2009 to more than 80 in 2012.

As a result of this growth, solar installers are seeing increasing interest from customers.  The Solar Foundation estimates the number of solar jobs in Iowa more than tripled from 210 in 2012 to 680 in 2013.

During the Iowa Senate’s debate on SF2340, Iowa Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) told a story about just how much growth has occurred in the solar industry in a very short period of time.  Six years ago, Hogg said, the largest Iowa array was a 7 kW array at the Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa.  He described the industry’s growth since:

“Hundreds of businesses, farmers and homeowners across the state have systems that are 7 kilowatts or larger. Hundreds. The largest photovoltaic array in Iowa is at Luther College, in Senator Breitbach’s district, 280 kilowatts 40 times larger. And later this year, in Senator Greiner’s district, Farmers Electric Co-op is going to break ground on an 800 kilowatt unit, more than 100 times larger than what just less than six years ago was the largest array in our state.”

Increasing Iowa’s use of solar energy is an important part of boosting the state’s overall use of clean energy, yet even with favorable policy and continued growth in the industry, Iowa has tapped only a small part of solar energy’s potential for our state.  In fact, the total amount of energy Iowa could produce from solar panels exceeds the state’s total energy use by more than 150 times over.

Leopold Center seeks nominations for Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has announced nominations for the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture are open now.  The Spencer Award honors the beliefs, innovations and stewardship of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years. It serves as a lasting memorial to the Spencers, who believed that it is the obligation of each generation to leave the world a better and healtheir place for the next generation.

The award was established in 2001 by an endowment from the Spencer family, and is administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. The 2014 award includes a $1,000 cash prize.

Who is eligible:  Anyone who has made significant contributions to the advancement of ecological and economic practices that will make agriculture sustainable and the family farm secure for the future. This can include individuals, agricultural organizations, researchers, educators, or students engaged in sustainable agriculture projects.

To learn more about submitting an application, visit the Leopold Center’s web site.

New research details Iowa path to 100% clean energy from wind, water, solar

solarThe Council’s energy program is focused on helping Iowa transition away from polluting sources of energy toward clean sources like wind and solar as quickly as possible. Doing this work, we often receive questions about just how much Iowa can rely on renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

This is actually a question that generates considerable debate among energy sector researchers. We have often referred people to a 2012 National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report that showed how America could receive 80% of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2050.

That study was important because it suggested renewable energy could provide reliable electricity at all hours of the day through all the seasons of the year with technology that is commercially available today.

But now, a Stanford University research team has gone even further, suggesting a pathway by which Iowa—and all 50 states—could receive 100% of our energy needs from just three sources: wind, water, and solar. Along with a new infographic summarizing the results, the team has begun to make its findings available through a nonprofit called The Solutions Project.


[Click here to see the whole infographic.]

Read more after the jump…

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Iowans gather at statehouse to support clean water, conservation

Council Executive Director Ralph Rosenberg, center, addresses the assembled crowd at Environmental Lobby Day, March 18.

Council Executive Director Ralph Rosenberg, center, addresses the assembled crowd at Environmental Lobby Day, March 18.

About 150 conservation advocates representing over 35 organizations gathered at the statehouse Tuesday to call on lawmakers to do more to protect clean water and a healthy environment—and provide funding needed to get it done. The morning rally was co-sponsored by the Iowa REAP Alliance and the Iowa Environmental Council.

Conservation progress in Iowa could receive a big boost this year if legislators heed the call of Iowa’s conservation community to provide Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program, or REAP, a special $25 million appropriation in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

But with many Iowa lakes plagued by harmful algal blooms, and record levels of nitrate pollution last year a threat to safe drinking water for half a million Iowans, advocates also cautioned legislators that stiff oversight, goals, and measurement of progress are needed to protect Iowa’s water resources.

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