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Farm-Rich Iowa Is Also A Leader In Renewable Energy

Photo Courtesy SolSmart

Iowa is probably best known for its agricultural industry, ranking third among the states in the number of farms with nearly 85,000. But it is also a leader in renewable energy thanks to joint efforts by the public and private sectors to bolster Iowa’s wind and solar power use.

An analysis of 2023 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data by the Motley Fool found that 60.4% of Iowa’s total energy consumption comes from renewables — the highest percentage in the country, Motley Fool reported. South Dakota ranked second at 57.1%, followed by Kansas (46.7%) and Vermont (44.7%).

Considering its vast open farmland and mostly flat terrain, it makes sense that Iowa would have strong renewable energy programs.

These are ideal conditions for producing wind and solar power. State leaders have effectively turned Iowa’s advantages into a thriving renewable energy industry.

Some of those leaders were recently recognized for their efforts in the clean energy industry. In December, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, and Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Director Debi Durham were honored by the American Clean Power Association (ACP) and Power Up Iowa (PUI) as Champions of Clean Energy.

Photo Courtesy Sen. Chuck Grassley

On its website, the ACP referred to Iowa as a “state leader in clean energy” because of its wind, solar, and storage sectors, which have benefited from $25 billion in private sector investments. Iowa’s utility-scale clean energy capacity stood at more than 13,000 megawatts (MW) in 2023 — enough to power 4.2 million homes. According to the ACP, the wind, solar, and storage sectors generate nearly $135 million a year in tax and land lease revenue and employ nearly 5,500 people.

“Iowa’s position of leadership in renewable energy goes far beyond one person,” Reynolds said in a release. “From working with the legislature, to our world-class research institutions, Iowa has cemented itself as a true energy powerhouse.”

According to ACP, Iowa is expected to add an additional 3,500 MW of utility-scale solar capacity, 5,000 MW of wind power, and 1,000 MW of battery storage by 2030. That would represent a gain of 72% from current levels. A combined $13 billion in private sector investment will fund the projects, driving further job creation, more tax revenue, and “substantial” land lease payments.

Video Courtesy American Clean Power Association

“Iowa is a clean energy success story, producing and using clean power for a greater share of the state’s electricity generation mix than any other state,” Jason Grumet, ACP CEO, said in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Grassley and Gov. Reynolds, Iowa has achieved this success with broad public support.”

The Champions of Clean Energy honor came only a few weeks after Iowa City received a Gold Level designation from the national SolSmart program for “encouraging the growth of clean, affordable solar energy at the local level,” according to a press release. 

To earn the designation, Iowa City was evaluated in five key solar energy areas: planning and zoning, permitting and inspection, government operations, community engagement, and market development. Iowa City met the required criteria in each area that aligned with nationally recognized best practices to remove barriers to solar energy use and make it faster, easier, and more affordable to install solar arrays.

Photo Courtesy Iowa City

“This designation is a testament to years of ongoing work that has been done in multiple Iowa City departments to support local residents, business[es], and organizations that want to pursue solar arrays for their facilities,” Sarah Gardner, Iowa City climate action coordinator, said in a statement. “It makes me proud to see this work recognized on a national platform, and we really valued the opportunity to learn more through this program about practices in other cities we could add to our own efforts in the future.”

Gardner worked with the SolSmart program to achieve the designation for Iowa City. It is one of more than 500 U.S. cities, towns, counties, and regional organizations to have achieved a SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.


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