Shining Light on Solar Energy Prospects in Iowa: Decorah & The Path to Iowa's Energy Future
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SubjectSolar energy--Iowa--Decorah; Sustainability--Iowa--Decorah; Decorah (Iowa)--Environmental aspects
The sun is our most impressive source of energy. More than one million times the earth’s size, every year the sun provides ten times more energy than is stored in all the world’s reserves of coal and oil. The amount and intensity of sunlight varies by location, climate conditions, as well as daily and seasonal trends. Although southern states such as Arizona, California, and New Mexico receive the most sunlight during the year, Iowa ranks among the top third in the United States in the technical potential for solar energy production. Iowa’s 16th-place ranking puts it ahead of many states to the south including Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Iowa’s rooftop solar energy potential alone could meet close to 20% of Iowa’s annual electric needs under optimal conditions. The decentralized approach to electricity generation through the creation of small-scale and distributed energy facilities has done wonders for solar proliferation in the state of Iowa as well as had a positive impact on the state’s economic development. Solar energy in Iowa now powers farms, businesses, universities, utilities, communities, and industries, as well as vehicles, and homes in the state. The purpose of this study is to analyze Iowa’s current solar energy blueprint by focusing on current practices, financial aspects, recent policy, and potential limitations. At the heart of this study is the examination of the northeast Iowa community of Decorah where renewable practices are epitomized with more than 50 solar projects found in a town of only 8,000 people. This study will correlate current policy and financial considerations to the case study of Decorah in order to help build a model for solar proliferation in the state of Iowa. It will show that although there may not be a perfect model for solar proliferation for each community in Iowa, there are many recommendations to help the process, including reauthorizing the state solar energy tax credit, cities creating community gardens, and electric utilities’ re-framing of the term “distributed generation” for becoming a comprehensible term which would boost understanding and awareness for potential ratepayers.