I-Renew and Prairewoods have grown up together. I-Renew was founded in 1992 and Prairiewoods was founded in 1996. I encourage all Iowans to stop by for an Eco-Spirituality tour on the Prairewoods grounds in Hiawatha. It is truly an oasis of nature and tranquility.
While on your tour, the northern-most buildings on the campus are two straw-bale hermitages powered by the sun. This was one of the early hands-on renewable energy projects that I-Renew helped make happen. On your way back to the the main campus, you will see a solar-thermal installation in front of the building that provide lodging for Prairewoods guests. This project originated from I-Renew founder and entrepreneur, Tom Snyder.
I became a member of I-Renew in 2003 when I was driving by Priariewoods, “never knowing what was over there.” I saw solar panels, windmills and people all over exploring these exhibits. I had my 3 yr old son with me at the time. We were on our way to visit my parents in Hiawatha. I looked at my son and said, “daddy has to stop and check this out!” My son held onto my index finger as we walked through the exhibits. After I got to the 2nd exhibit, I asked, “how can I be part of what you are doing here?” That is when I signed up to be a member.
Renewable Energy projects continued into the millennium. In 2009, Prairewoods installed the largest land-mounted solar PV grid in the State. Next, in 2010, for the same investment as 2009, the grid was expanded from 40 PV panels to 100, yielding a 17,500-watt system capable of generating 22,500 kilowatt hours of electricity in one year. These solar PV panels provide about 45 percent of the electricity used at Prairiewoods and are tied into the electrical grid.
The Iowa Powerfund, which ended in 2006, was a major contributor to the most recent renewable energy project on the Prairewoods grounds, The Iowa Renewable Training Center (IRETC). This renewable energy demonstration facility was finished with a flurry of activity just as the snow was beginning to fall in late 2010.