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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Mar 28, 2008

Governor Chet Culver told members of the Iowa Wind Energy Association Thursday at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville that he wanted to make Iowa the “Silicon Valley of the Midwest”.

If the governor and Legislature play their cards right, it could happen.

It’s going to take more than understanding how a wind turbine generates electricity, though. It’s going to take an understanding of how to harness energy.

Right now, a predominant concern seems to be how to “get on the grid”. Quite frankly, one begins to wonder if that might be as much politics in that as anything.

Another political football seems to be the never-ending battle to extend the wind energy tax credit. As one industry official said T the IWEA convention Thursday, the three times the tax credit expired had a devastating impact on the industry, stopping construction of new wind turbines cold.

Maybe it’s time to see how we can put wind energy to use right here in Iowa.

Municipal utilities are a guaranteed revenue stream. If more cities turned to wind as a source of power, it would greatly reduce our dependence on rising wholesale energy prices. Granted, the upfront cost would be substantial. But we know there would be a payback down the road.

That’s not all that could be done, though.

More research needs to be done in the area of harvesting methane for municipal power uses. Every municipality of any size in Iowa has a sewage treatment plant. Many also have municipal electricity. Why not harness the two and use methane to power electrical generators.

That same synergy of energy resources could be used by establishing agriculture enterprise zones in Iowa. We have industrial zoning which limits other uses. Why not have agriculture enterprise areas in which large beef and dairy operations could be strategically located near ethanol plants. Methane from the feed lots could be used in a closed-loop system to provide power for the ethanol plant which would produce wet cake for the cattle.

By having established agriculture enterprise zones, many of the problems we have now of people moving into the country and trying to ruin farming could be solved. People simply wouldn’t be allowed to move into those areas unless they signed a waiver exonerating ag producers from future damages. Agriculture enterprise zone developers, of course, would have to pay fair market value for any residents who wanted to relocate.

Iowa’s economy is doing well, remarkably well, when compared to the rest of the country. That’s because we have something everyone else needs — ethanol, biodiesel, and wind energy that help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need to go one further, though, and continue to work toward more innovative technologies like as using biomass such as switchgrass and corn cobs and stalks for ethanol production.

We can’t rest on our laurels as being first in ethanol and biodiesel production and fourth in wind energy. By continuing to strive for greater efficiency and being willing to invest in the necessary technology, we can stay in the lead for a long time to come.