You can learn here about County programs, policies, projects and plans that carry out our commitment to sustainability. Since 2009, the County has made internal operations more sustainable, along with fostering efforts and changes to help county residents realize their green goals. Some of our reporting is done by fiscal year and some by calendar year.
Fiscal year updates
Fiscal Year Updates were provided as an electronic and printable brochure between 2015 and 2019. Please visit the milestone lists in the next section for more information.
Select milestones by calendar year
PDS published in March 2023 the first-ever Community (countywide) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for Johnson County, which accounted for 2010 (baseline) and 2020. Overall emissions decreased by nearly 28% in the decade studied. All sectors decreased, with the exception of solid waste, which is a relatively small contributor to GHG emissions. The sectors with 25% or greater decreases included commercial and industrial energy, residential energy, agriculture and stationary fuel mix. Transportation saw a 1.9% decrease, although COVID may have impacted findings.
Recording of Presentation – begins at 1 hr 28 min mark. Lasts about 30 min.
PDS, the Green Team, and key partners from Conservation and Public Health as well as other departments and offices made a presentation to the Board of Supervisors in April, fittingly during Earth Week. The group shared nearly 20 recommendations to advance adaptation and resilience for County operations, with some spillover into more external-facing efforts. The intentl is for the Board to consider these suggestions for strategic planning, departmental/office and other longer-term planning in order to help people, places and wildlife. Access the recorded presentation (click on item 5 or begin at the 1 hour 13 minutes mark) and slides (start on page 97) here.
Sustainability Made Integral Part of County's Economic Development Plan
Sustainability and resilience, along with equity, are among the values informing the goals of the 2022 Johnson County, Iowa, Economic Development Plan: Opportunities for the Unincorporated Area, Villages and Smaller Towns. The plan was adopted on January 13, 2022, by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors after an 18-month long process that involved stakeholder engagement as well as input received from the Johnson County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Johnson County Food Policy Council. Access the plan here.
Bicycle Friendly Business GOLD renewed
The Downtown Campus, which includes the Administration Building, Health and Human Services Building, and Ambulance+Medical Examiner Facility, earned once again a gold-status designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Highlighted included sharing bicycle education materials in multiple languages, working with MERGE to help other businesses be bicycle friendly, and support to the Iowa City Bike Library. Learn more about this award here.
Battery Energy Storage Ordinance Adopted
Johnson County adopted a battery energy storage ordinance in summer 2021 to help advance renewable energy use. We know reading ordinances is not everyone's cup of tea but for those who do, you can find it here. Please note that the utility-scale solar regulations in that linked document are being updated; contact the planning department if you need more information o n that process.
Adaptation Workshop for County Operations
EcoAdapt brought 16 county department and offices together for an intensive online 12-hour workshop spread out over three days. With 28 county employees and leaders participated in discussion on how adaptation--managing unavoidable climate impacts--can be incorporated into four operational areas: health + safety, land use, transit, and facilities + services. Post-workshop reporting and discussion led to the 2022 recommendations on incorporating adaptation measures into county operations. The County will simultaneously continue mitigation efforts, which aim to avoid the unmanageable consequences of climate change.
Third Solar Group Buy: Grow Solar Linn + Johnson Counties
We upped our game by partnering across jurisdictions for yet another solar group buy. Moreover, it was done online yet again!
Second Solar Group Buy: Grow Solar Johnson County
Building on the success of 2018, Johnson County partnered again with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, a local installer, and even more cities -- nine -- in the county and brought another group buy to the area. The group pivoted to take the effort online due to COVID.
Special Report on County (Operations) Building Energy Use (report available on request)
Operational Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017 (report available here)
First Solar Group Buy: Solarize Johnson County adds more than 1 megawatt of residential solar!
More than 700 people attended Solar Power Hours, and 180 households added more than 1 megawatt of solar to their homes as a result of this first-ever solar group buy in the conty. Johnson County, along with Johnson County Conservation, Johnson County Public Health and six cities (Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Shueyville, Solon and West Branch) teamed up with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and a local installer. Residents, and business owners learned more about solar energy and how to add affordable solar to their homes. The residential group buy provided an outright discount along with additional discounts based on the collective kW of the arrays.
Bioretention Cell Rejuvenated
The bioretention cell near the Administration Building saw refreshed soil and plantings in 2017. The projected was funded by the internal Sustainability and Energy Reinvestment Fund (see 2014 milestones for fund background). By spring 2018, 12 varieties of flowers and grasses were thriving. The cell slows and filters stormwater—an important function in urban areas where concrete makes many surfaces impervious to water.
County Becomes First County in Iowa and the Midwest to Earn Gold SolSmart award
The County earned this award from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier and more affordable for residents in the unincorporated areas to add solar to homes or businesses.
Board of Supervisors Passes Resolution of Commitment to Honor Paris Climate Agreement Goals
On June 8, 2017, one week after President Trump withdrew the United State of American from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, the supervisors passed a resolution to show the County's unwavering support to help fight the climate change and protect Earth from risks of devastating consequences ensure security, prosperity and health. The leaders also agreed to have the County sign on to a statement of commitment at We Are Still In. A twitter handle @counties4climate and #Counties4Climate were used to help spread the word to other counties.
County Downtown Campus Earns Gold Bicycle Friendly Business Award
In March 2017, the Downtown Campus--Administration Building, Health and Human Services Building, and the nearly completed Ambulance+Medical Examiner Facility earned gold-status designation from the League of American Bicyclists for such features as accessible bicycle racks, educational events, and Bike to Work Week / One Less Car efforts.
New Heating-Ventilation--Air Conditioning System Garners $127,000 Rebate for County
Thanks to upgrades made by the Facilities Department, we were able to earn this large rebate and funnel it into the Sustainability and Energy Reinvestment Fund to support other sustainability and energy-saving projects.
More Solar PV Added; More Than Triples Amount of County Buildings on Solar
In November 2016, two additional solar arrays went live. An 85 kW ground-mounted array began to provide about 24% of the electrical needs of the Johnson County Administration Building, while a 159 kW roof-top array on the Health and Human Services building started covering about 11% of the electrical need for that combined. The arrays are on a Power Purchase Agreement with Eagle Point Solar. In addition, that same month, two of the Secondary Roads sheds began participating in the Farmers' Electric Community (FEC) Solar Garden. The County purchased 20 modules that are part of the garden--FEC collects the power, puts it on their electrical grid and the County's monthly bills are credited for the retail value of the power.
Sustainability Grants Program for Nonprofits Launched
Certain local non-profit organizations (eligible for County block grants) were able to begin participating in competitive grants program to complete energy efficiencies, resource reduction, or green vehicle projects. Five organizations received grants in this first round, and most of them added LED lights to their offices or facilities. As part of the program, groups completing energy efficiency projects had to have their building undergo an energy audit. A total of $30,000 in grants were awarded.
2015 (calendar year)
Local Foods: Poultry Processing Expanded
In November 2015, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance amendment to allow for up to 999 birds to be raised, slaughtered and processed annually on agriculturally zoned parcels for sale to household consumers only. The change was made in response to a recommendation by the Johnson County Food Policy Council and research by County staff. Previously, poultry slaughtering/processing was possible only on agriculturally exempt farmland.
Local Foods Planner Position Added; Department Name Changed
In fall 2015, the County added a full-time local foods planning position. In addition, the Planning and Zoning Department was renamed the Planning, Development and Sustainability Department to better reflect its services.
Sustainability Working Group of Johnson County Created
The County had helped create, and is hosting, the Sustainability Working Group (SWG) of Johnson County to share ideas and potentially collaborate on sustainability efforts. Modeled on the Housing Task Force of Joint Entities group, SWG members (primarily staff but including some elected officials) hail from the county, cities, University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, and school districts. The group held its first meeting in September 2015 and meets quarterly.
Strategic Planning: Reduce Energy Use Goal (effort continued from 2014)
In 2015, the remaining objectives of the two-year goal were completed.
The County entered into Power Purchase Agreements--the first-ever for a county in Iowa--for the installation by Moxie Solar of two solar arrays at the Secondary Roads Campus. Combined the two arrays will provide 86 kW of energy, which will support about 23% of the annual electrical needs for the campus. See the arrays in action online!
Energy-efficiency projects resulted in savings or pre-approved rebates:
For participation in MidAmerican Energy's Commercial New Construction Program, the new Secondary Roads and Fleet Maintenance Facility garnered a $34,000 rebate check and will enjoy annual energy savings.
A LED upgrade project completed at the County Sheriff Office and Jail will earn a major rebate.
The County is pre-approved to receive an estimate $125,000 for upgrades to the HVAC system in the Administration Building
For the energy draw analysis, it was determined that strong and effective measures were in place for computer equipment, and departments were encouraged not to use mini-fridges and to be mindful of non-essential equipment.