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Iowa City awards $60K in climate action grants
Solar projects, energy efficiency and climate education are planned
IOWA CITY — So many worthy causes, not enough money.
That’s how Briana Hoffman, of West Branch, felt when she thought about supporting both local social service agencies and groups that fight climate change.
“I’ve always been passionate about our community, but at the same time I want to help the climate because I think our planet is in trouble,” Hoffman said. “I realized you can do both. By helping nonprofits be more energy efficient, you can actually help the planet and the nonprofit. The money they don’t spend on electricity is going back into their purpose.”
Hoffman helped Iowa City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program apply for a $10,000 Community Climate Action Grant to go toward a solar installation. The city of Iowa City chose the project as one of seven to share $60,000 in grants for the 2021 cycle. Those funds were distributed in July.
With the city grant and two Rotary Club grants totaling $10,000, DVIP has raised $31,000 toward its $80,000 goal for the solar installation. The nonprofit will continue to raise money to buy more panels before the installation next spring.
A $36,000 system would prevent the emission of 16.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the group’s fundraising page. Once the system is paid off, savings on electric bills could be funneled back into the group’s mission of serving survivors of physical, mental and financial abuse in eight southeastern Iowa counties.
“The more panels we add, the less time it takes to pay it off because the cheaper it is per panel,” Hoffman said.
Shelter House also received a $10,000 city grant to go toward putting solar panels on the roof at its 70-bed emergency shelter.
Deerfield Common, a town house complex on the east side of Iowa City, had major problems with ice dams last winter, said Kathleen Fitzpatrick, 66, a homeowner and treasurer of the Deerfield Common Homeowners Association.
“Turns out, poor insulation in venting and attics is one of the causes of ice damming,” Fitzpatrick said. “We found some places where there was absolutely none. It had just deteriorated.”
Deerfield Common applied for, and received, a $10,000 climate action grant from the city. With the grant and cash reserves, the HOA will pay $17,000 to install insulation in all 24 attics, reducing energy use and electric bills.
“Had we not gotten the grant, we would have had to do a special assessment,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve got some young families, some people on a fixed income and some single people.”
The Iowa City Bike Library will use its $10,000 grant to do an energy audit and site analysis with the goal of being carbon free in five years, according to the group’s application. The Bike Library, established in 2004, bought its first building earlier this year and plans to use the city grant to update windows and doors to increase natural light and energy efficiency.
Education and resilience
The South District Neighborhood Association will use its $8,885 city grant for a youth disaster preparedness event. Planners will engage school-age children, who will receive Raspberry Pi computer systems and learn STEM skills through assembling the computers.
“Students will use these computers to learn about resilience and extreme weather through gaming and participate in interactive discussions,” the application notes.
Other grants include $6,175 for a study on establishing resilience hubs to serve vulnerable populations during times of extreme weather or natural disaster and $5,000 for a group to create 125 energy care packages for lower-income households.
Iowa City received 25 applications for the climate action grant program, funded through a $1 million emergency levy the Iowa City Council approved in the fiscal 2021 budget, Assistant City Manager Rachel Kilburg said.
Nonprofits, businesses or K-12 students based in Iowa City may apply for grants for projects that can be completed in 12 months, match the city’s climate action goals, are “impactful and measurable” and benefit a diversity of Iowa City residents. The next application period is expected to open in March.
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