In the past decade, wind turbines have popped up all over the state, new power plants have opened and 28 ethanol plants have been built in the state.
Roya Stanley, director of the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, is the person in charge of state efforts to boost all sectors of the energy industry. "We have a ways to go, there’s no doubt about that," Stanley says, "but we are on the right trajectory."
Stanley says the 4th of July is a great day to think about the goal of energy independence. "The analogy for energy independence is very similar to what our founding fathers were looking for when they declared independence from Great Britian. It was not about being an island. It was not about cutting off trade. It was not about being completely alone, but it was about charting our own course," Stanley says. "And I believe that’s what our founding fathers and mothers were looking for and that’s what we’re really looking for when we talk about energy independence."
A few years ago, Iowans imported nearly 99 percent of the energy they used to electrify their homes and businesses and drive their vehicles. Today, with the advent of wind turbines and the production of ethanol and biodiesel, that’s been reduced to about 95 percent. Stanley says within a few years, Iowans may be importing less than 80 percent of the energy they use.
That’s a significant decline, according to Stanley, mainly because production of wind energy is expected to rise here. "In fact, it’s possible that we could see five times more wind (energy) and even possibly more than that generated from Iowa," Stanley says, "and from an independence perspective, I think it’s important to recognize that not only would we be using the electricity generated, but we would effectively be exporting that, so wind energy becomes an export market for us just as we export our corn and beans."
While Iowa has more electric-generation plants, the coal or natural gas to power those plants must be imported. The bulk of the energy Iowa imports is fuel for vehicles.