Monday, November 7, 2022

This October, the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative at the College of Law held a series of panel discussions between policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives focusing on solar policies and practices across the state of Iowa. Each panel focused on solar topics at different levels — from municipal level issues such as net metering to county level issues like utility scale, land use, citing, and state level issues like storage, equity, transmission. Throughout the day, about 195 people participated in person and 129 more joined in virtually. There were 2 moderators and 15 panelists from 7 different counties, including Johnson, Linn, Polk, Winneshiek, Story, Dallas, and Chicago, IL.

“Those who attended the panel series event were a mix of on-campus partners, as well as colleagues at other higher ed institutions in Iowa - from community colleges to the other Regents Universities in the state, and even colleagues at out of state Universities,” expressed Blake Rupe, the Initiative’s Program Director, “We also welcomed private and public attorneys, environmental interest groups, public employees, entrepreneurs, trade associations, organized labor, public and private utility representatives, elected officials, policy researchers, and various industry partners.”

Shannon Roesler, the Charlotte and Frederick Hubbell Professor of Environmental and Natural Resources Law, also commented on the event stating, “I’m so glad that we chose solar energy in Iowa as the topic for our first HELI-sponsored event. Iowa has always been a leader in renewable energy. The state is known for its wind power and is well positioned to add solar to the mix as we work to meet future energy demands for low-carbon energy. Our speakers did a terrific job explaining the potential of solar energy in our state, while also acknowledging some of the political and regulatory barriers that require our attention.”

“It was incredible to kick-off the Initiative by welcoming a cross-section of interests from across the state, the larger Midwest, and the country to discuss solar energy policy in Iowa,” added Rupe, “We look forward to carrying the momentum from this event into future programming, research, and engagement opportunities.”

Spencer Culver, a student at Iowa Law, gave his own perspective on the event saying, “The Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative convened legal experts, industry professionals, officials from localities in Iowa to discuss the benefits of solar energy and current barriers to expanding its role in Iowa’s energy mix. Panelists throughout the day described that solar energy proponents need to consider public participation and stakeholder engagement as crucial elements of development projects. Whether proponents of solar energy like it or not, Iowa’s efforts to promote solar energy projects must reckon with public grievances about these projects.” “The HELI solar event elucidated these concerns,” he expressed, “It provided a gathering space for the public and experts to exchange ideas, ask questions, and learn about different ways to advance solar energy efforts in the state.”

The Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI) generates opportunities for the University of Iowa College of Law to deepen and broaden its engagement with environmental issues in Iowa and across the nation. In time, this initiative has developed and strengthened the legal environmental community in the state of Iowa with one of goals being to create and increase dialogue that will contribute actionable solutions to environmental problems.

Recordings of the solar event are available on Youtube:


HELI hosted its second event on November 7, 2022 including panel discussions with a focus on the proposed carbon capture and storage pipelines across the state of Iowa. For more information visit their website and stay tuned for recordings.