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Community Solar Projects. Are they the key to reducing energy prices and energy needs?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Choose Green Program

Every citizen under the Muscatine Power & Water umbrella has the choice to be powered with wind and solar instead of coal. At 25, 50, or 100% of your energy supplied with renewables for an additional penny per kilowatt hour, this program is quite affordable. The average household spends another $8/month for the Choose Green Program.

Click the button to sign up for yourself or use the calculator MPW provides so you can calculate just how much to expect your bills will be.

Currently Muscatine has very little renewable energy utilization. About 6% of the energy MPW produces is with solar or wind, the rest is with coal, mostly sourced from Powder River Basin in Wyoming. The small percentage of renewables utilized by MPW is due in part to the fact that so few customers opt into the pay for play program. If you would like to see Muscatine invest more into renewables in the future then you should opt into the 25% green level of the Choose Green Program at least. This has been the only tool MPW uses to determine public interest in renewables for Muscatine. Because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put out deadlines for power plants to become more efficient or else pay hefty fines, our power plants would require $40 million in upgrades in order to stay operational. This means, of course, that they are set for decommission and replacement. This makes now the perfect time for MPW to invest in a green future with the majority of our energy coming from renewables that can be built up before the end of the decade. However, that is not the direction that MPW is going. They are planning to build more solar in city limits along the Grandview Ave corridor but they estimate that this addition with take their 6% green energy today and double it to 12% by 2030. Barely scraping into the double digits of green energy production when the state sits around 60% renewable energy generation is laughable. But the reason why the amount is still going to be so low is because Muscatine citizens have not paid into the Choose Green Program. MPW states that the lack of interest in renewables, shown through the poor participation in the Choose Green Program, leads them to believe that the small solar field is all that its customers want. That’s why CLAM would love to see so much request for participation in the program that Muscatine Power & Water can’t keep up and they have to consider building more solar ad wind farms to meet demand. Please help spread the word about the program and opt into the lowest setting at least, to add more incentive to invest in renewables.

The Muscatine Pollinator Project

Another banger of a program for Muscatine citizens. If you love pollinators and other bugs, or if you love native flowers and plants, or you have a boring yard that you want to beautify with color and longevity, this is the group for you. The fine folks of the pollinator project share important facts about what our native prairie plants could do to mitigate flooding, how important pollinators are to our food supply and much more. Every year they offer up for sale dozens of different species of native plants from the robust Turkey Foot to the late blooming Aromatic Aster and even edible and flowering trees like the Downy Serviceberry. (All fan favorites) Without this groups efforts to get native plants into the hands of the citizenry it isn’t farfetched to say that Muscatine would be a lot worse off. It’s not always obvious or easy for the regular citizen to know what is native to the area, or what’s a cultivar or not, or whether something is going to hurt local wildlife, so having a large selection of safe options to choose from every year is truly world changing.

Outdoor Recreation Spotlight: The Bike Trail

The City of Muscatine has more than 10 miles of paved and unpaved trails and walkways, as well as more than 20 parks with a combined 550 acres of land. This boon of outdoor recreation options for citizens offers countless biking or running routes from the Deep Lakes State Park to Weed Park and many in between. Add to this the scenic views from the river front, unobstructed by a barge terminal, makes travelling along the southern edge of the city a beautiful and peaceful experience. Is there a favorite view you found while travelling the public bike trails?

Recycling in Muscatine. Paper, plastic and…leftovers?

The Public Works of Muscatine picks up not only garbage but also recycling at the curb for the convenience of the citizens. Paper, plastics, metals and even glass can be picked up by the city for no additional charges. This single stream recycling system is super helpful for people who don’t like the idea of sorting recyclables. But when the recyclable items are removed from the trash what does that leave? The answer is: lots of scraps. Kitchen scraps, specifically, 40% of our landfills are made up of organic matter. Everything that’s scraped off the dinner plates, the bread heels no one will eat, the leftovers that never make the cut, produce that rots before it can be remembered, when these things end up in a landfill and get buried under the rest of the refuse, a dangerous chemical reaction occurs. When left out, this organic waste will break down via bacteria and sunlight and produce carbon dioxide and other simple compounds. But, it’s when this waste is buried, away from air and sunlight that the danger can occur. In an anaerobic environment organic matter will break down more slowly, but it does still break down…into methane. Methane is the reason for almost every dumpster or landfill fire because it is an extremely combustible and explosive compound. It is in fact, natural gas. It is also a leading cause of climate change as methane is about 80 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And that’s why the city of Muscatine funded the MORC, Muscatine Organics Recycling Center. After years of research, trial and error and lots of grant writing, anyone in Muscatine can now take their food waste down to the recycling center and put it in the bright orange dumpster, keeping it out of the landfill forever! But then what? Something amazing, that’s what. The MORC takes the food waste from the citizens and puts it in a big vat filled with bacteria, very much reminiscent of a landfill, except these bacteria work for the city too! The methane produced by the bacteria inside these giant digesters is captured and then pumped back into the city pipelines to help power buildings for free, but that’s not all. The next step in the process is liquifying the captured methane and using it to power the Muscabus and other public vehicles like police cars and fire trucks. The sky’s the limit!

About

Clean Air Muscatine is working to improve the environment and thus the lives of the citizens and neighbors of Muscatine, Iowa through the advocacy of common sense moves toward a cleaner, healthier world.

We regularly attend the Board of Water, Electric and Communications meetings (Last Tuesdays at 5:30 pm at the MPW headquarters on Cedar St.) to stay up-to-date on the current situation and intentions of the local power sector. We also speak at the city council meetings (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Thursdays at 7pm, online and at city hall) occasionally to share insights and advertise the local programs that citizens need to be aware of.

Why do this?

  • Because if the people and corporations in power kept everyone’s best interests at heart at all times then we wouldn’t have to worry.
  • Because there are currently dozens of people solving the problems of today but are not being heard because of economic, social, and environmental injustice.

The future of the planet is not at stake. The planet will outlive us and continue on long after our species has gone extinct. However, our short lives on this planet are impacting everything that shares this planet with us and is negatively impacting the future of everything that will be born after us.

What can we do about it:

  • Sharing the insights of those who are progressing towards solutions instead of just continuing the status quo
  • Changing our own and encouraging others to change aspects of their life for the better
  • Listen to the youth who are living through a time that we can’t prepare them for
  • Recording the changes we see, both the good and the bad, for posterity

CLAM has been a part of Muscatine for over a decade now and has fought for the health of the citizenry against a corruption and won the largest settlement in Iowa history. (View this video explaining the hardship the South end community endured before CLAM pushed for this lawsuit) But we didn’t stop paying attention to the needs of the community and today another opportunity has arisen that could greatly benefit all Muscatinians and our neighbors or continue the status quo to the greatest benefit of the industrial executives and not the people. (Link to the blog)

We hope that you will join us on this journey. It will not be smooth, it will not be fair, it will not be easy. But before the United States put a man on the moon, President Kennedy said “We choose to go to the moon…not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” And truly, the difficulty of something has never mattered to the human race. We conquered every continent and populate everywhere habitable (and some places uninhabitable) because we can. If we choose to do something, even something that seems impossible today, we will make it possible and do it.

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