At Iowa State Fair, keep on rockin’ in the clean energy world

By Gail Parson

With the Iowa State Fair kicking off this weekend – and with President Obama announcing earlier this month that the federal Clean Power Plan has been finalized – it’s worth considering a few of the ways clean energy will play a role in the festivities in Des Moines.

First, one of the musical headliners – The Fray – is more than just a world-famous rock band. The band members are also prominent clean energy supporters.

Check out this music video The Fray filmed last year at the massive, 377-megawatt Ivanpah solar farm in California:

Second, the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) will be part of a discussion on Iowa clean energy called “Clean Air + Clean Energy = Good Business.”

This panel will discuss the Clean Power Plan – a federal policy which will expand clean energy nationwide by setting the first-ever limits on the amount of carbon pollution our nation’s power plants can emit.

The panel will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 16, at the John Deere Agriculture Building. It is open to press and the public.

I will be joined on the panel by Iowa business leaders including former University of Iowa football star Tim Dwight, who’s now in the solar business and will lead the discussion; Warren McKenna of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association; Rob Hach of the Iowa Wind Energy Association; Grant Menke, policy director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association; and Emily Rice, who’s the business development manager at the Des Moines-based energy efficiency company The Energy Group.

Here’s what Emily had to say when the Clean Power Plan was finalized Aug. 3:

“While the federal Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious action our nation has ever taken to combat the rising economic costs of climate change, it actually does much more than that,” she said. “By sending a strong, clear market signal to the private sector, it will give wind, solar, and energy efficiency companies the confidence they need to expand their operations and hire more workers. It will boost Iowa’s existing energy efficiency efforts, improving the vitality of businesses and communities. The Clean Power Plan’s built-in flexibility gives our state’s leaders the opportunity to help Iowa continue to build our clean energy future.”

And the third reason why clean energy will play a big role in the Iowa State Fair this weekend? About 30 percent of Iowa’s electricity comes from clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind – the highest such percentage in the country.

For Iowa’s manufacturing sector, that means jobs, like these in Newton helping to manufacture wind turbine blades:

But as we all know, at the state fair it’s agriculture that takes center stage. So as a 4-H alum, I wanted to also take a look at the Clean Power Plan through the 4-H pledge to the head, heart, hands and health.

  • Head: The Clean Power Plan is a smart, commonsense plan. The plan puts Iowa in the driver’s seat to develop carbon pollution limits that works for the state. As Emily notes, it also sends a strong, clear market signal to businesses that America is serious about clean energy and energy efficiency. This will attract investments to Iowa’s economy. Utilities already know that renewables are good business for Iowa. MidAmerica Energy announced in May that it’s increasing investment in wind energy, bringing the company’s total wind investment in Iowa to nearly $7 billion. You can buy a lot of fried Twinkies with $7 billion. 
  • Heart: The Clean Power Plan will help provide a good living standard to future generations. With the state already generating so much of its electricity from renewables, Iowa is well on its way to meeting the Clean Power Plan’s carbon pollution standards. More clean energy for Iowa means more jobs, less pollution – and meaningful steps to combat climate change.
  • Hands: The Clean Power Plan will put Iowans to work. There are more than 22,000 workers in Iowa’s clean energy economy, with the workforce poised to grow 6 percent this year. The Clean Power Plan can add more jobs putting people to work modernizing power plants; retrofitting homes, schools and commercial buildings; and developing new sources of renewable energy. In addition to the video above highlighting wind manufacturing jobs in Newton, check out this E2 video of a solar energy company in Fairfield.
  • Health: The Clean Power Plan will protect public health. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plan will help prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed work and school days. This matters for Iowans; the American Lung Association estimates there are 378,000 people with asthma or chronic respiratory disease in Iowa.

See you at the fair!

Gail Parson is E2’s Midwest Advocate.

(Homepage photo courtesy of Iowa State Fair.)