Iowa Office of Energy Independence Plans for Green Future

DES MOINES, Iowa, December 23, 2008 (ENS) - Today, the Iowa State Office of Energy Independence released its 2008 Plan for Energy Independence, with recommendations on best practices for efficiency and energy production statewide.

A newly formed state agency, the Office of Energy Independence issued its first annual energy plan in the fall of 2007. Since then, the OEI has received more than 160 pre-applications, proposing nearly $1 billion in private-sector investment in renewable energy and job creation.

"Iowa’s natural resources, innovation, and work ethic provide a solid foundation for us to lead in this new energy economy," said Governor Chet Culver. "Most important, research and development into energy efficiency, renewable energy, and next-generation biofuels is leading to job growth in every corner of Iowa."

Under the plan, Iowa's Office of Energy Independence will enact an energy efficiency portfolio standard, expand energy education, promote smart growth and support workforce development in energy.

Utilities are affected too. The OEI plans to develop coordinated and uniform core utility energy efficiency programs, and it will make energy efficiency the highest priority in utilities’ planning processes.

For renewable energy, the OEI plans to promote and ensure long-term growth of large utility-scale wind and promote small-scale distributed generation.

The OEI also intends to promote the development of an environmentally sound biomass industry in Iowa in part by developing a biomass feedstock supply infrastructure for second generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from non-food plants. The plan calls for support for development and deployment of integrated biorefineries.

Finally, the OEI plans to improve the analysis used to develop greenhouse gas performance measures.

"The recommendations in the 2008 Plan for Energy Independence will help Iowa stay a national leader in renewable energy," said Roya Stanley, director of the Office of Energy Independence. "Investing in the renewable energy economy will help us weather the economic challenges, and prepare us for a brighter, stronger future."

The Office of Energy Independence sets the strategic direction for Iowa's clean energy future by identifying goals to achieve desired results. The office will align state government efforts for achieving energy independence through partnerships with business and industry, community leaders, government and public agencies.

One of its tools is the Power Fund, which provides funding for projects that fit with the OEI's strategic direction.

Today, the 18-member Iowa Power Fund Board approved funding for six renewable energy projects that will help develop energy systems that do not rely on coal, oil or gas.

Funding for the six contracts totals $5.87 million, and they are expected to leverage $6.27 million in private sector investments to the state.

Two of the contracts went to Iowa State University, another two were awarded to the University of Northern Iowa, and the final two were awarded to private companies.

Iowa State was awarded $2.37 million to improve the performance of ethanol plants, utilizing clean biomass gasification for power generation and ethanol production.

The project addresses the core development needs of the grain ethanol industry to reduce natural gas consumption and transition to cellulosic ethanol production. The university will provide matching funds of $922,112.

Iowa State also was awarded $1.69 million to develop more efficient, cost-effective thin film solar cells for solar-electric energy conversion by improving materials and by using novel device structures. Matching funds of $463,500 will be provided.

The University of Northern Iowa was awarded $400,000 to create an economically competitive hydrogen fuel cell that would revolutionize the energy storage industry. Development of a high density storage matrix for hydrogen is "the critical step" to making fuel cells competitive on the commercial market, the Power Fund Board said. Matching funds of $65,000 will be provided.

The University of Northern Iowa also will develop less costly dye sensitized solar cells with a $78,681 grant. Technology developments in this area of research will allow for more commercially-viable, solar-powered consumer devices. The university will provide matching funds of $18,600 for this project.

RENEW Energy Systems of Osage, Iowa was awarded $250,000 to build a mobile biomass briquetter, which will be used to densify solid biomass onsite for industrial and commercial heat and power generation.

The mobile briquette press is expected to allow the producers to handle loose biomass while also minimizing the use of fossil fuels in transportation. The resulting product will be high-density biomass fuel briquettes made from wood, agricultural, industrial, and recycled byproducts. These briquettes will be used in existing or modified industrial, commercial and residential burners. Matching funds of $299,500 will be provided.

Finally, Amana Farms, Inc. of Amana, Iowa was awarded $1.08 million to utilize emerging technologies to create environmental benefits by turning crop, livestock and industrial waste into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion. Amana Farms will build an educational facility, which will be used to host seminars and explain this under-utilized technology to members of the general public. Matching funds $3.57 million are part of the project.

{Photo: Dye sensitized solar cells of four different types. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)}

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