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Editorial: Investment in renewable energy always welcome

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Last week’s unanimous approval for a sustainable-energy-reinvestment fund by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors was an advantageous move for not only the county but Iowa as a whole. The state is near the top of the list for the production of renewable energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and while most of the energy created is biofuel, such as ethanol, we feel that the decision by the supervisors to increase Johnson County’s renewable-energy efforts is a worthwhile investment that will aid the state as it pursues even greener methods of energy production.

As The Daily Iowan reported Monday, the funding — $50,000 initially, with an additional $25,000 per year over the next five years — will be spent on pursuing sustainable-energy projects around the county, and county officials are considering allocating some of the money for solar projects and a few wind projects. It’s an improvement on an already excellent system.

The American Wind Energy Association has profiles of each state’s wind-energy production, and the association ranks Iowa as the national leader for percentage of electrical energy generated by wind — around 27.4 percent of the state’s electricity comes from wind, which is great news. Targeting opportunities for solar energy — a relatively unexplored mode of green-energy production in Iowa — will help catch up with such other states as, not surprisingly, Arizona.

Johnson County is the perfect location to keep the momentum going and improve even further upon Iowa’s ability to produce sustainable, renewable, clean energy. The effort between the University of Iowa and county officials — not to mention Iowa City’s receiving a federal grant of $692,000 to go energy-efficient — is sure to create positive results.

The university’s “2020 Vision” plan has been successful in starting Iowa City in the right direction. Announced by UI President Sally Mason in 2010, the goal is to achieve less energy consumption on campus by 2020 than was consumed in 2010, a bold feat considering the growth of the university.

As listed on the university’s website, there are seven strategies and goals the UI plans to pursue to reach its target number, and the second point describes efforts toward renewable energy. It’s a very “green” time to live in Johnson County.

While the allotted funding probably won’t be enough to stimulate huge job growth in the county — though Iowa does have a number of manufacturing plants that could be enlisted — the benefits of investing in renewable energy are well worth it. According to an article posted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit that advocates for science in the United States, wind energy creates between .02 and .04 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, and solar energy produces between .07 and .2 pounds per kilowatt hour, both of which are comparatively cleaner than the up to 3.6 produced by coal, the state’s primary source of electricity. A boost in clean energy would lead to better water and air quality.

It seems that, as of late, Iowa has rushed toward staying on top of renewable-energy production. The supervisors’ decision comes after news of the Iowa Senate approving bills — without partisan argument — supporting tax credits for solar and wind energy early this spring. It seems that we’re all united over something, a rare political occurrence, and that something happens to be improving the health of our ecosystem.  

The reinvestment in promoting sustainable energy is a sign of continuing progress for Iowa — progress that we all agree on. We might be a national leader in renewable energy, but we’re not settling, and Johnson County’s five-year extension on funding green efforts makes that clear. The Editorial Board hopes that similar plans will take shape in even more locations around the state.


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