The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa climate experts push for more solar energy

The Iowa Climate Statement emphasizes the importance of solar and wind energy over the use of fossil fuels.
Solar+panels+are+seen+on+Tuesday%2C+Oct.+19%2C+2021.
Bing Lovan
Solar panels are seen on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.

As Iowa comes out of one of the hottest summers of the year with major heat records set in in July and August, the focus for Iowa’s 13th annual climate statement is to expand the use of solar energy.

The statement released Tuesday was endorsed by 221 members of faculty at colleges and universities across Iowa.

David Courard-Hauri, professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability at Drake University, said smoke from Canadian fires combined with heat has caused an “unhealthy, otherworldly atmosphere in our state.”

According to the U.S. drought monitor, most of Iowa is experiencing a drought, particularly in eastern Iowa, despite heavy rains in September, Courard-Hauri said.

“This year felt like climate change has qualitatively altered our summers in a dangerous way,” Courard-Hauri.

The best way to combat climate change, Courard-Hauri said, is to reduce emissions by moving away from the use of fossil fuels, coal in particular, when producing electricity.

Iowa’s recent move to wind powered energy has been very successful and has improved the economy tremendously. Wind energy has increased production jobs, income for farmers and low electricity rates, said Courard-Hauri.

However, in comparison to surround states, Courard-Hauri said solar infrastructure has been lacking. The benefits of solar energy are just as abundant as the usage of wind-energy.

“Iowa has an opportunity to enhance its production of carbon-free energy by leveraging its experience with wind energy use, and building out its solar energy production,” Gene Takle, professor emeritus of agronomy at Iowa State University, said.

Combining the use of the two energies during the fall and summer months, and when wind energy production is low, will enhance Iowa’s capacity to produce year-round renewable energy, Takle said.

Iowa is underinvested in solar energy even though its effectiveness from a land use perspective, Peter Thorne, professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of Iowa, said.

A one-acre solar farm produces as much as approximately 100 acres of ethanol from corn according to the statement.

Shade provided by solar panels during the hot summer months can be beneficial for plants, said Thorne.

In addition, solar panels can be placed on land including homes, parking lots, and playgrounds as well.

Ulrike Passe, professor of architecture at Iowa State University, emphasized the importance and new emergence of solar-powered homes.

“Producing one’s own energy is more feasible than ever,” Passe said.

To combat opposition to solar projects, the Courard-Hauri said there will be plans to work with the community to determine where objections might come from.

The amount of land that is needed to generate solar energy is so small, Thorne said.

In regards to what solar power will look like in the next 10 years, Thorne said that a build-out of solar complementary to wind is expected.

Solar energy will have a significant impact on Iowa as it continues to be used with wind energy. Passe said that financially, solar energy is more sustainable.

“There is a lot of economic drivers behind solar, and the research and acceptance in industry to produce more will kick-up due to how cheap it is,” Passe said.

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About the Contributor
Shreya Reddy, News Reporter
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Shreya Reddy is a freshman at the University of Iowa. Coming from a small town in Kansas, Shreya is double majoring in English and Political Science on the Pre-Law track. Before coming to the Daily Iowan, she has written for her neighborhood magazine and her schools literary magazine as well as writing an investigative journalism piece.