Community college leaders united to promote Iowa’s wind industry

Source: By Colin Van Westen, Spencer Daily Reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Iowa Lakes Community College President Valerie Newhouse joined five other community college presidents from around the state advocating policies promoting wind energy in Iowa earlier this month. The letter cited positive economic impacts on rural communities and environmental benefits of the energy source. (Above) Iowa Lakes Community College instructors Dan Lutat, Mike Gengler and Jim Liessmann introduced a group of students in safe climbing basics during a career exploration in the summer of 2016 in the Sustainable Energy Resources and Technologies Facility in Estherville.“We all reap the benefits of a stable and reliable energy source with some of the lowest electric rates in the nation,” the letter, signed by Newhouse, said. “As an increasing number of us as consumers aim to be more environmentally mindful, wind energy is aiding the effort.”

Newhouse and Iowa Lakes sustainable energy director Dan Lutat pointed out the Iowa wind energy industry requested the up front tax incentives, which it currently receives, to sunset in 2020. Newhouse explained issues she would like to see addressed by the Iowa Congressional Delegation include support to improve transmission of wind energy to the larger energy grid and measures to allow for further sustainability of the industry such as favorable logistical support regarding regulations governing the distance between turbines and turbine set backs.

“Iowa Lakes has more invested in wind energy than any other community college in the state,” Newhouse said. “We are known, primarily throughout the nation, and the world for leadership in the field based on the success of the students and our strong, dedicated instructional staff.”

The letter continues by addressing the importance of the wind energy sector as a renewable energy source in Iowa. It claims that in 2017, 37 percent of Iowa’s energy came from wind which is equal to the amount of energy needed to power 1,935,000 homes.

“In terms of development opportunities that exist, we are nowhere near the ceiling in Iowa,” Lutat said. “In terms of the foreseeable future, development will continue at a strong pace. There are people who are still investigating wind in their counties and there is still interest. Sometime in the future, turbine installation may level off, but we are not at that point. The industry is still going to be there as a strong industry even after you see turbine installations level off.”

February 2019 will mark the 15th anniversary of Iowa Lakes’ first commissioned wind turbine. Lutat said after Iowa Lakes became one of the first institutions in the nation to offer an associates degree in wind energy and turbine technology in 2004, the program reached its peak between 2009-11. Lutat identified the transition from the “boom and bust” cycles of the industry to sustainable development as a key to its long-term success. He added the industry is now close to achieving self sustainability.