The Iowa Power Fund Board, an agency of the state government in Iowa, met last week and had a special guest from the federal government who requested to speak: He is John Askew, a farmer from southwest Iowa who is administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 7, which includes Iowa and other surrounding states. The EPA Region 7 headquarters is in Kansas City.
"This board, created by the state of Iowa, has had a big impact, not only in energy independence, but also about the future of the state of Iowa," said Askew. "This region is known as an agriculture and biofuels region, but will very quickly be known for agriculture, biofuels, wind and energy independence."
Later, Askew continued the discussion and highlighted the importance of the Power Fund and its work in linking energy decisions with the environment, economy and energy independence.
Energy linked with agriculture and environment
"The fact that the Power Fund has been recognized by U.S. EPA shows that it's effective and is being noticed," says Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and a Power Fund Board member. "It is vital that we maintain our leadership status on renewable fuels, and the Power Fund plays an important role in the continued development of the industry here in Iowa."
"With the national recognition that the Iowa Power Fund and the Office of Energy Independence receives, now is the time to continue our support for clean, renewable energy," says Representative Nathan Reichert, a state legislator from Iowa House District 80, and ex-officio member of the Power Fund Board. "Investments now will lead us to a stronger future for Iowa."
The board also heard two presentations from applicants seeking funding. Both applications took another step forward in the process and will start contract term negotiations. The projects are:
* Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Project. This project is requesting $19,000 in state funds to go along with matching funds of $81,025 from Consumers Energy Cooperative. The rural electric co-op will purchase and retrofit a standard hybrid vehicle so that it can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet.
The funding will pay for the testing and monitoring of the vehicle's performance in Iowa's various conditions. The project goal is to assess whether more standard hybrid vehicles should be converted to Plug-In Hybrids.
* Increasing the Use of Distillers Grains in Livestock Diets. This project is requesting $399,995 with matching funds of $320,753. Iowa State University will conduct distillers grains (coproduct from ethanol production) feeding studies for swine, poultry and cattle to address strategies to overcome insoluble fiber, antibiotic and sulfate limitations, so the grains in livestock diets may be increased. The project goal is to find more uses for distillers grains from ethanol plants, which may help the ethanol industry offset some of their economic issues.
The Office of Energy Independence sets the strategic direction for Iowa's clean energy future by identifying goals to achieve desired results. The office serves to align state government efforts for achieving energy independence through partnerships with business and industry, community leaders, government and public agencies, and other stakeholders.
Power Fund OK's loan for energy storage plan
Also last week, the Iowa Power Fund board approved a $3.2 million matching loan to a group that plans to store energy underground near Dallas Center in central Iowa. The Stored Energy Park will try to solve the most vexing problem of electricity generation and transmission - its inability to be stored. The park will use wind turbines and deep underground air storage.
Air will be compressed using low-cost, off-peak electricity. The air will be pumped into the ground and stored in a rock formation deep underground for later use. When energy is needed, the air will be released, heated and used to drive generating turbines. The electricity it produces can be used as needed, especially during high demand peak hours.
The project will be funded by the Power Fund, the U.S. Department of Energy and $500,000 from Iowa municipal electric systems, which will have first call on using the electricity generated. Project director Kent Holst says plans for the 3,000-foot deep wells must be approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
"There is still a lot of technical things to be worked out. I don't imagine we will begin construction until 2010," he says. He says the project won't build its own wind turbines but will contract with existing facilities. The power will be dedicated for use by Iowa's 100 municipal-owned utilities, which are investing in the project. The two other underground storage facilities in the world are in Alabama and in Germany, he notes.