Europe Reveals Iowa’s Renewables Potential

Northern Europe has a lot in common with Iowa in regards to the amount of renewable resources-such as wind, crops and livestock waste-that can be converted into energy. Dave Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau’s director of commodity services, says northern Europe has become a world leader in renewable energy because of public policies that encourage such projects.

West Des Moines, Iowa – October 16, 2003 [] “Is there potential for significant economic development and an economic boost in the rural areas of Iowa through renewable energy production? The answer is yes,” Miller says. “It’s a matter of looking at what are the appropriate public policies that would assist that in happening and looking at ways we can utilize renewable energy production and utilize the resources right here in Iowa.” Miller traveled through Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Iceland September 12-22 on a renewable energy tour sponsored by Powering the Plains. The Powering the Plains initiative examines renewable energy policies and determines ways to stimulate energy production from renewable resources that are abundant in the Upper Midwest. The project is a collaboration among farmers, utility companies, environmental groups, Farm Bureau staff and government regulators. Members include representatives from Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and the Canadian providence of Manitoba. “The purpose of the trip was to look at renewable energy policy and projects that are going on in northern Europe and Iceland,” Miller says. “Northern Europe has been a leader in wind-energy development and, in Denmark particularly, with biogas development. But they also do a fair amount with biomass.” Fulfilling needs Miller says public policies in northern Europe are favorable towards renewable energy partly out of necessity. Northern Europe generates most of its energy from natural gas. With rising natural gas prices and limited supplies, the countries need to develop more sustainable sources of energy, Miller says. In addition, the northern European countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that requires them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. New technology has made renewable energy more cost-competitive, Miller says. Twenty years ago, wind-energy generation cost about 20 cents per kW. Today, wind energy costs 2 to 4 cents per kW.Miller says Denmark has more than 6,600 windmills generating power in the country. The German state of Schleswig-Holstein generates 50 percent of its electricity from wind energy. “There has always been a lot of talk about all the problems associated with incorporating increased percentages of wind energy into the electrical grid,” Miller says. “They (the Europeans) have been able to manage and deal with the transmission and grid management problems.” Unique projects The Powering the Plains group toured a hydrogen refueling station in Amsterdam. The station was part of the Clean Urban Transport for Europe (CUTE) project, which is placing hydrogen-fueled buses in 10 European cities. In Denmark, the group met with officials from NEG Micon, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines. They also toured two Danish biogas production facilities. The facilities generate electricity from the methane gas emissions of livestock waste. In addition, the group talked with European government officials about renewable energy and environmental policies. “Both Germany and Denmark, and to a degree the Netherlands, are comfortable with utilizing some tax incentive policies,” Miller says. “It does impose some additional cost at the retail level on energy, but it is clearly developing new technologies that are bringing those costs down on renewable sources.” Iowa potential Miller says Iowa has a rich supply of renewable resources and could follow the lead of northern Europe. “The northern parts of Germany, along with Denmark, have very good wind resources, but the fact is we probably have better wind resources in northwest Iowa and up into the Dakotas than what they do,” he says. “Denmark also produces about the same amount of hogs as the state of Iowa…and both areas, northern Germany and Denmark, have fairly similar energy-crop potential, or what we would call biomass.” Miller said Iowa farmers and landowners, in particular, stand to benefit from renewable energy development. Wind-energy generators are often built on rented ground, and land is needed for crops and livestock. “We have good wind resources in the state, we have good biomass resources. Part of the policy challenge will be figuring out how to enhance the development of those resources and the utilization of them,” he says. Courtesy of the Iowa Farm Bureau, Article By Teresa Bjork
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