Jim McCalley. (ISU photo)

Iowa needs targeted investments to strengthen and expand its electrical grid to prepare for extreme weather events brought on by climate change.

That’s the recommendation from the latest Iowa Climate Statement being released by a coalition of more than 200 researchers. Iowa State University engineering professor Jim McCalley says the extensive power outages from last year’s derecho showed clear vulnerabilities in the state’s infrastructure.

“We need to reduce impact and increase speed of restoration and recovery during extreme events,” McCalley says. “This requires diversification in the ways that we supply power. It means, for example, deploying microgrids for loads providing critical services such as hospitals and grocery stores.”

Utility companies should be making investments now, he says, to bolster Iowa’s electric grid. McCalley says, “The future is going to bring winds, extreme temperature events, floods and droughts at a frequency and severity exceeding conditions for which much of this equipment was designed.”

Fortifying the grid will also allow for more wind and solar development, which McCalley says is key to zeroing out emissions.
“The transmission capacity that we currently have is insufficient to build out the resources that we need to hit zero carbon,” McCalley says. “That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.”

The authors of the Climate Statement are calling on residents and regulators to push utilities to make the investments.

(By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)

(This story was edited to correct the headline)