Utility-scale solar energy can be a tool for conservation, economic development Originally printed in the Gazette on June 20, 2021
As Iowa begins writing the next chapter of our clean energy future, Linn County has arisen as an attractive location for renewable energy projects, such as utility-scale solar. In light of the public dialogue surrounding potential solar energy projects in Linn County, it is important to note that these projects can be both a tool for promoting economic development and investing in the conservation of our natural resources, namely soil and water.
The proposed utility-scale solar projects under consideration in the county have created quite a stir with misleading information and images being circulated about their potential environmental impacts. To put it plainly, these proposed projects will not destroy the natural environment or negatively impact the watershed if they are approved and built in line with Linn County’s existing ordinance for solar energy projects. In fact, with a diverse mix of native grasses and wildflowers cultivated on-site, these proposed projects can significantly improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators, going a long way to restore Iowa’s landscape.
Two utility-scale solar projects have been proposed for Linn County, which currently has in place a strong ordinance to accommodate projects of this scale. IEC has compiled an overview of these proposed projects, detailing economic and environmental benefits, project timelines, application requirements, developer insights, and more.
Groups Sue Utilities Board for Refusal to Evaluate MidAmerican Coal Plants
Three environmental groups are appealing a decision by the Iowa Utilities Board to allow MidAmerican to evade review of its coal plants.
MidAmerican is the single largest carbon polluter in the state of Iowa. The company operates five coal plants in Iowa and is the majority owner of a sixth, and unlike other major utilities across the nation, has announced no plans to retire any of its coal plants in Iowa. The recently-filed case focuses on the two plants that financial analysis shows are the most expensive and least economic to operate.
Iowa law requires biennial review of plans to manage coal plant emissions. The plans must manage the emissions cost-effectively, but MidAmerican’s plan ignored the option of retiring the coal plants to best meet emissions requirements.
Iowa ends solar tax credits, leaving 760 Iowans on the hook to pay unexpected costs
The Iowa legislature's failure to extend the State Solar Investment Tax Credit earlier this year will mean an estimated 760 Iowans will lose out on an average of $3,200.
The popular credit, which was historically underfunded and oversubscribed, will now phase out at the end of 2021, leaving many Iowans without the credit they were promised when they invested in their solar project.
The Iowa Department of Revenue estimates that valid and complete business or residential applications with a submission date before October 1, 2020, will be eligible to receive a tax credit award and certificate during the 2021 award year.
IEC and ELPC Settle Alliant Emissions Case
Earlier this month, IEC and ELPC settled a case before the Iowa Utilities Board, involving the emissions plan and budget for Alliant Energy’s coal plants in Iowa.
Alliant sought approval of costs to retire its Lansing Generating Station and to convert the Burlington Generating Station from coal to gas. The retirement and conversion were announced last year in Alliant’s Clean Energy Blueprint, under which Alliant plans to retire all its Iowa coal plants by 2040. IEC participated in a stakeholder planning process that informed Alliant’s decisions.
“We appreciate Alliant’s commitment to stop burning coal at these two facilities,” said Kerri Johannsen, IEC’s Energy Program Director. “We know that coal plants are becoming an economic risk for customers and utilities, and Alliant’s transition away from coal recognizes that fact.”
Coal Plants: The Price Iowans Pay, Webinar #1
On June 16, IEC kicked off the first event in our three-part webinar series looking at excess coal generation here in Iowa. The first webinar focused on explaining excess coal generation by examining investor-owned utility customer sales vs. market sales. View a recording on our YouTube channel of IEC's event, Coal Plants: The Price Iowans Pay, Webinar #1.
Upcoming Energy Events and Activities
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Register today to join IEC on Wednesday, August 18 at 11:30 AM for the second event in a three-part webinar series looking at the impacts of excess coal generation here in Iowa.
Unlike renewable generation, all fossil electricity generation impacts Iowa’s environment. Coal generation not only degrades the air we breathe and drives climate change but also produces a substantial amount of solid waste that is landfilled in Iowa. Iowans are paying with their lives, health, and safety and farmers are paying a significant corn production penalty from unnecessary coal plant pollution. Coal plant emissions are increasingly being recognized as significantly impacting our health, and are silent killers. Visit the event page to learn more!
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