The Center for Rural Affairs last week released “Powering Iowa: Rural Perspectives on Iowa’s Renewable Energy Transformation,” a report examining renewable energy development in the state.
Authors of the report, Stephanie Enloe and Katie Rock, used survey results from Iowa county officials and landowners to explore how Iowans are responding to renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar and electric transmission lines.
Center staff mailed surveys to Iowa county supervisors and auditors in all 99 counties, as well as to landowners who live near a recently completed electric transmission line. Elected officials were asked how wind, solar and transmission development impact their counties. Landowners were asked for feedback on their experiences negotiating a transmission line easement.
Survey finds support for wind, solar
“We were happy to see strong support for wind and solar among local elected leadership,” says Rock, a policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs. “I was interested to learn that, among our survey respondents, elected leaders who support wind aren’t necessarily more likely to support solar, or vice versa.”
In “Powering Iowa,” the authors found that a majority of the elected leaders who responded to the survey tend to support wind or solar energy development, especially when they see evidence of local economic benefits. Elected officials also recognize the connection between renewable energy and transmission line development. When assessing whether to support a transmission project, the supervisors said they prioritize fair treatment of landowners, preservation of agricultural land and provision of local economic benefits.
Landowners have mostly positive experiences
Landowners who responded to the survey reported mostly positive experiences with transmission line developers. They also provided recommendations on how developers can further improve the siting and construction processes, such as placing poles that do not impede views.
“We were pleased to see the results shared by the landowners,” Rock says. “So far, we have found transmission developers are open to feedback on improving interactions with landowners and rural communities. We will continue to work with developers to incorporate the recommendations included in our report.”
Most of the community leaders viewed wind and solar development as an economic opportunity to benefit their community. Leaders were more likely to support wind and solar if they knew the economic benefits to the community.
However, those supportive of wind and solar did not necessarily also support new transmission lines. Transmission lines were seen as important for grid reliability and efficiency, and to create new opportunities for wind and solar. Physical transmission lines are not viewed as an economic benefit.
Top concerns were fair treatment from developers and preservation of agricultural land.
Landowners were encouraged to ask transmission developers these questions before negotiating an easement:
• Where will the pole be placed?
• How much compaction should I expect on my field?
Solar power in Iowa has room to grow, the report says. Iowa is the 16th highest state for solar production potential, but ranks 36th for installed megawatts of solar energy. Currently, solar energy provides 550 jobs in Iowa.
The report can be found at cfra.org/publications/PoweringIowa.
Source: Center for Rural Affairs