Eliminating Energy Waste in the Heartland
Photo credit: University of Iowa

Iowa, known for its rolling farmland, is a leader in the highly energy-intensive, food processing and production industry. In an effort to help its food production and industrial sectors reduce energy waste, the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Department of Natural Resources sought to streamline the permitting process for combined heat and power (CHP) systems. With financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's (EERE) State Energy Program, and collaboration with DOE's Midwest Technical Assistance Partnership, Iowa launched a collaborative process to address questions from business and industry on how to permit and finance CHP systems.

According to Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority, “Iowa is both a preeminent agricultural product producer and national manufacturing leader. The fact that we can power an industrial economy with reliable, affordable, and in a lot of cases, renewable, energy is a big selling point for business in our state. We believe that CHP applications can provide further efficiencies and economical results for our production facilities."

CHP integrates electricity and heat to achieve operating efficiencies upwards of 80%, making it a desirable alternative to more conventional power plants that operate at only around 50% efficiency.

Because CHP involves the combustion of fuel to generate heat, systems produce regulated emissions such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources requires new sources of emissions – including new CHP systems – to obtain a permit to certify that state air pollution standards have been met (Administrative Code 567 IAC 22.1).

In 2015, Iowa released a CHP Resource Guide that answered common regulatory questions raised by industry and partners when considering CHP projects. The guide provides:

  • An overview of the state’s permitting requirements, including siting and air emission permits;
  • Clarity on how facility owners, operators, or developers can navigate Iowa’s air quality permit process for CHP systems;
  • Administrative requirements and timing for each step in the CHP air permit application process;
  • Information necessary for a successful permit, including estimated emissions, control equipment, and dispersion modeling runs; and
  • System finance options, contact information for state officials who can assistant with CHP applications, and case studies on past CHP deployments in Iowa.

Since releasing the guide, Iowa has continued to help industry evaluate market-specific CHP opportunities. In 2015, Iowa published a Biogas Assessment Model, which helps the biomass industry identify opportunities for CHP systems that use biogas as fuel inputs. With an abundance of biomass in the state, using biogas as a CHP feedstock may improve the economics of certain projects.

In 2016, Iowa released a new state energy plan that lists greater energy reliability, diversified energy generation sources, and avoided costs as benefits of CHP. The plan references the CHP Resource Guide and outlines how the state will continue to support CHP in part through enhanced collaboration with Iowa’s utilities to support CHP systems at smaller industrial sites.  The energy plan calls out the potential of CHP “to generate jobs and economic growth,” and seeks to use collaborative efforts for “the identification of best practices and program models that would allow for expanded CHP development."

EERE's State Energy Program provides funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and the District of Columbia to enhance energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and maximize the benefits of decreasing energy waste. The State Energy Program emphasizes the state’s role as the decision-maker and administrator for program activities tailored to their unique resources, delivery capacity, and energy goals.