Posts tagged energy

What does Climate Change mean for Iowa?

“Climate Change Threat and Opportunity: Will Iowa Respond?” is the subject of a free, public forum from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 16, 2009, at T-Spoons, corner of Linn and Market streets in Iowa City. The forum will be led by Jerry Schnoor, Allen S. Henry Chair in Engineering, professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research in the UI College of Engineering.

Schnoor, who chairs Gov. Chet Culver’s Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council, said that the council’s recent report can be summarized by asking whether or not Iowans are going to respond to climate change and take advantage of the obvious opportunities presented in transforming the state’s economy towards energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, or are they going to be left behind by other states and other countries?

The talk is presented by Café Scientifique of Iowa City, whose discussion sessions are held on the third Thursday of the month from September to May. Café Scientifique of Iowa City is a meeting forum where the public is invited to explore and debate the latest ideas in science, mathematics, medicine and technology.

For more information on Café Scientifique visit http://www.physics.uiowa.edu/cafe/

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Going green – not just for St. Paddy’s Day anymore – and inside Clipper wind

   Going green used to be reserved for St. Patrick’s Day.

Not anymore.

   In the past few years, “green” has taken on a different meaning – a movement that embraces an environmentally friendly way of living. The Homegrown blog has always shared in that philosophy and now it’s expanding. Gardening will remain an integral part of the blog, but it will also include the “home” side of Homegrown, as well, with tips and ideas for maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle, both indoors and out.

 

   With the state’s Environmental Protection Commission in Cedar Rapids for a meeting and tour of Clipper Turbine Works,  I thought this would be a good time to launch the Homegrown eco-blog.

 

   The Environmental Protection Commission is a panel of nine Iowans who provide policy oversight for Iowa’s environmental protection efforts. Members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by a vote of the senate for  four-year terms. Air and water quality surrounding Iowa’s confined animal feeding operations, requirements regarding underground storage tanks and climate change are some of the issues the commission addresses. 

 Two local members are Marty Stimson, a top manager at Clipper Turbine Works in Cedar Rapids, and Shearon Elderkin of Cedar Rapids.

Shearon has served on the Friends of the Linn County Conservation Board, Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Cedar Rapids Garden Club, and the 1000 Friends of Iowa Board. She also has served on the Linn County Conservation Board and the Linn County Integrated Roadside Management Committee.

 

   On Monday, March 16, the commission toured Clipper Turbine Works’ plant at 4601 Bowling St. SW. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside, but Marty let me take a shot of him outdoors, next to the 150-foot-long blade in front of the plant. The blades aren’t actually manufactured in Cedar Rapids. The Liberty turbines that are made here include the machine base, gearbox and huge hubs, which look like a deep-sea diving helmet out of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

 

   Commission member Suzanne Morrow of Storm Lake said the group takes tours a few times a year to get a better understanding of some of the issues they consider. Marty offered background on Clipper and led the commission members through the plant, along with visitors, two members of the Department of Natural Resources and Rich Leopold, director of the DNR.

 

   The plant itself is “recycled,” formerly serving as FMC Corp. and the former Goss plant. It has 330,000-square-feet for manufacturing and 30,000 for office space. Earlier this year, Clipper laid off about 80 employees, going from a workforce of 350 to 270 in Cedar Rapids. Marty said no orders had been cancelled, but some had been deferred until the economy recovers.  In fact, the plant has been increasing the number of turbines produced from eight in 2006, to 137 in 2007 to 300 last year. It will eventually reach a maximum productivity of 500 to 550 turbines produced per year, Marty predicted.

 

   Each 2.5-megawatt Liberty wind turbine costs about $3 million, or just over $3.5 million with installation. Iowa has risen to second in the nation in wind power, with 2,790 megawatts installed, surpassing California, which has 2,517 mw, in third. Texas is the leader in wind power.

   Every 1,000 megawatts provides enough electricity to power 300,000 homes and enough to offset 3.4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

   One impediment in providing a steady supply is the nation’s power grid, but Rich Leopold sees hope in President Obama’s stimulus package, which is directing $50 to $60 million to Iowa for energy efficiency, with an additional amount attached to the development of a “smart grid” that can allow wind farms to connect into the grid, a need especially in rural areas.

 

 

Marty Stimson at Clipper Turbine Works

Marty Stimson at Clipper Turbine Works

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Black & Gold going green

This just came out today – the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in Fall 2009:

Gone are the days when the environment was solely the purview of biologists, climatologists and engineers. If tomorrow’s world is truly going to be greener, teachers, dental assistants, grassroots advocates, government leaders and even artists must be prepared to contribute to sustainable systems and practices.

To help put students on a path toward becoming effective leaders and agents of change for sustainability in whatever professional setting they choose, the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in fall 2009. The program will allow students to augment their majors and minors with a certificate that promotes an integrated understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interactions between them.

To meet the certificate’s requirements, students must complete 24 semester hours of course work that includes three introductory core courses, four electives from a designated list and one project course. Courses already required as part of a student’s major or minor fields of study may count toward the certificate. Students must also maintain at least a 2.00 grade point average.

“The need for sustainable practices, awareness and ingenuity is going to grow exponentially in the coming years as the world manages diminishing resources and humanity learns how to better live within its means,” UI President Sally Mason said. “Energy, society, culture, economics, construction and public policy all will be impacted. That’s why I’m thrilled that the University of Iowa has taken this important step toward providing our students with the tools and academic framework to couple sustainability with whatever fields of study they choose.”

The required courses include “Introduction to Sustainability,” “Introduction to Environmental Science” and “Contemporary Environmental Issues.” For their electives students may select from a wide array of courses offered across the disciplines, from “Glacial and Pleistocene Geology” and “Wetlands: Function, Geography and Management” to “History and Environment in Africa” and “Planning Livable Cities.”

The required projects will address advanced problems in design, sustainability and education, multimedia writing on the topic of a green economy and other relevant issues. One option, for example, is a course offered through the UI College of Engineering’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department that provides students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to propose solutions to problems faced by people in the developing world. Students study and develop the appropriate technologies required to improve water and sanitation, energy, housing, and health. 

Barbara Eckstein, an associate provost and professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, chaired a task force of faculty and staff from eight colleges that developed the certificate, which she said is accessible to any undergraduate student.

“Whatever students’ career goals, understanding the ties that bind economic development, environmental protection, and equity is key to their future,” Eckstein said.

An interdisciplinary advisory board will oversee the certificate’s implementation. The board members are Jim Throgmorton, a professor in Urban and Regional Planning; Laura Rigal, an associate professor in the Department of English with a joint appointment in American Studies; Mark Reagan, a professor of igneous petrology and geochemistry in the CLAS Department of Geoscience; Christy Moroye, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning; and Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, associate research scientist at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering and coordinator of sustainability programs in the UI College of Engineering.

The certificate is just one of many ways in which the university is strengthening its commitment to sustainability as outlined by Mason in an Earth Day address last year. Despite the flood of 2008 and the ongoing recovery, as well as the significant budget challenges presented by the downturn in the national economy, the university has made important strides toward developing a greener campus and curriculum.

Soon after her address, Mason established a Sustainability Steering Committee and in November appointed Liz Christiansen the university’s first director of sustainability. Already, the UI diverts about 30 percent of its general waste stream through recycling practices. And the UI is ahead of schedule in its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2010, as required by its membership in the Chicago Climate Exchange, of which the UI was an early member.

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lauded the UI for reducing carbon emissions at its power plant by using one system to generate both heat and energy, saving the equivalent amount of carbon stored by 11,232 acres of pine forests for one year or the emissions from 8,046 passenger vehicles. The plant burns oat hulls to reduce its reliance on coal by 20 percent and may serve as a model for a new power plant under consideration that could eventually provide 100 percent renewable energy at the Oakdale campus.

UI faculty and students are getting in on the act, too. In February, student leaders and the UI Environmental Coalition presented a series of sustainability panels as part of the National Teach-In on Global Warming 2009. And student members of the UI College of Engineering’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, working with faculty advisor Craig Just, recently won a first-place award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for designing a $5, hand-held device to sanitize water and potentially save lives in developing countries.

Greg Carmichael, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, is using a $750,000 NASA grant to examine the atmosphere above the Arctic — a natural receptor of smoke and forest fire pollution from northern Europe, Asia and North America that creates a visible arctic haze. And Larry Weber, director of the UI’s world renowned IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering research unit, is using the flood of 2008 as an opportunity to develop better ways to predict future flooding, and help communities live more sustainably near volatile waterways.

Even economic development should benefit from the UI’s commitment to sustainability. The UI College of Engineering is involved with the newly launched Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND), a partnership among the regents universities, community colleges, industry, and the Iowa Department of Economic Development, designed to support the state’s efforts to attract and nurture wind energy and related industries in order to become the nation’s leader in alternate energy technologies.

For more information on the plan and other UI energy conservation efforts visit http://energy.uiowa.edu/

 

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Keeping it local

   A conference this week in Iowa City will address energy options, the impact of local food production and other health and environmental issues.

   “Keep it Small Keep it All: Cultivating the Bioeconomy at the Local Scale” will be 7:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Iowa City.

   The conference is free and open to the public. If you would like to eat an Iowa grown lunch and receive conference materials, there is a $30 registration fee.

   The University of Iowa Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) is hosting the conference, which will address health and environmental issues as the Midwest embraces the bioeconomy by highlighting individuals, organizations, and communities that promote health and environment at a small and decentralized scale.

Speakers will:

  • Address local energy options from small fuel production to electrical generation
  • Look at the economic, health, and environmental impact of local food production and distribution systems.
  • Present policies that promote and hinder small scale efficiencies.

More information is at: http://www.cheec.uiowa.edu/bio_conf/brochure.pdf

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