Iowa Ideas
Iowa Ideas

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designed to explore the key questions and big ideas that will shape the future of Iowa.

Iowa Ideas

Symposium recap: Water management, solar power and ideas for advancing environmentalism

Education identified as a need, questions remain in regulatory environment

Jun 7, 2017 at 2:53 pm
    Larry Weber, director of the IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering center at University of Iowa, speaks at the Iowa Ideas Energy and Environment symposium at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Speakers focused on water quality management and how renewables enter into Iowa's energy future. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

    Topics of discussion included solar power and water management at Iowa Ideas’ energy and environment symposium in Cedar Rapids.

    More than 30 people attended the event, held at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, 7725 Kirkwood Boulevard, SW to take part in group discussions and listen to presentations by Larry Weber, director of the University of Iowa’s IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering department and Iowa Wind and Solar Vice President David Birchmier.

    Weber shared insight into IIHR’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded Iowa Watershed Approach, a statewide program aimed at reducing flood risk, improving water quality and increasing water resiliency.

    The program establishes watershed authorities, performs hydrologic assessments, creates watershed plans and deploys monitoring equipment to identify future projects geared toward nutrients in Iowa’s rivers and streams and floodwater management


    Weber said effort, which began in October, has worked best with local organizations to pursue projects.

    “We want to be able to be more local in what we do,” he said.

    Later, Birchmier, with Iowa Wind and Solar, talked about some of the challenges and opportunities in Iowa’s growing solar industry.

    Phasing out tax credits and changes to net-metering rules – for Alliant Energy customers – have the potential to impact future solar investment, but at the same time they can lead to innovation, Birchmier said.

    The advancement of energy storage capabilities, such as with batteries, could greatly influence future solar investment, he added.


    In the second half of the symposium, participants broke into small groups to discuss matters of energy and environment within the state – including policy and education, water quality, renewable energy and conservation.

    In the discussions, common barriers to advancing efforts in such fields as energy, conservation and water quality were identified as policies, perceptions and funding.

    Leverage points for success included more local projects, having businesses lead by example and getting more citizen involvement.

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