Iowa wind, solar energy advocates call for state assistance

Current projections estimate 2,500 new jobs in wind and solar energy in the coming year in Iowa

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DES MOINES — A day after the Iowa Senate approved expanding state tax credits for small-scale wind turbines, renewable energy advocates were at the Capitol encouraging lawmakers to more aggressively assist Iowans in harvesting wind and solar energy resources.

“It’s the future. It’s happening,” former University of Iowa and NFL football player Tim Dwight said Wednesday. “We need to get people ready.”

Unfortunately, the state is offering little help, said Dwight, co-owner of Integrated Power Corp., a solar development company.

Stan Pfoff of Pfoff Electric in Marion was there, too, and he’s advocating that Iowa match Illinois’ 30 percent tax credit on wind and solar projects. He’d also like the state to adopt renewable portfolio standards, similar to those in Minnesota and Wisconsin, to encourage small-scale projects.

Adopting net metering and demand billing to allow private individuals and companies to sell energy they generate — but don’t use — to utilities also would encourage private investment, said David Bennett, an instructor at Kirkwood Community College’s Wind & Solar Training Center in Cedar Rapids.

Current projections say there will be 2,500 new jobs in wind and solar energy in the coming year in Iowa.

The trade group’s Capitol rally came a day after the Iowa Senate voted 41-9 to provide nearly $64 million in state tax credits over the next decade. Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said the bill would help Iowa maintain its leadership role in the wind energy industry.

Dwight, who has made several visits to the Capitol in recent years to promote renewable energy, conceded it will take time to educate legislators and policymakers.

“But how can you not support something that’s going to create American jobs, especially in your home state?” he said.

He also contrasted what renewable energy advocates are asking for to a legislative proposal for MidAmerican Energy to build a small-scale nuclear power reactor.

“We’re definitely a lot cheaper,” Dwight said.

Renewable energy advocates want to create a fund to help Iowans install solar and wind generation “to power their own homes, to power back into the grid and maybe power someone else’s home and power a school.”

“So we’re a little different,” he said. “We want to spread it around. We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to own their own power.”

One way to help would be for the state to lead in the use of solar and wind energy, said Steve Falck, a former northeast Iowa legislator who’s now with the Iowa Environmental Law and Policy Center. The center is asking Gov. Terry Branstad to sign an executive order that the Department of Administrative Services and Regents implement the use of solar and wind energy technology, and that consideration be given to using those energy sources in constructing, renovating and leasing public buildings.

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