Solar farms are popping up across rural Iowa like new crops thanks to member-owned utility co-ops that are taking advantage of simplified financing and standardized pricing models. Case in point, the Famers Electric Cooperative (FEC) and Iowa Wind and Solar completed the second phase of a 2-megawatt solar project in Kalona, Iowa.
That’s enough energy to power more than 200 homes. Considering that the co-op has 650 members, it could provide 30 percent of its customers’ energy needs if they were all residential customers.
The final stage consisted of 2,880 solar panels which added 950.4 kilowatts of solar energy to FEC’s electric generation capacity, making FEC one of the leading solar utilities in Iowa. During Iowa Wind and Solar’s construction of the last phase, it worked with Mevo and Lifestream in what might be a first-of-its-kind live online broadcast of the construction, which happened between Oct. 3 and Oct. 17. According to Iowa Wind and Solar President Tyler Anderson, “This is the first instance we are aware of in which the entire construction and installation of a solar array of this magnitude has been available for the public to watch live.”
Iowa is taking steps to encourage exponential growth of solar power. For instance, the Iowa Supreme Court allowed power-purchase agreements (PPAs) in 2014, and in 2015 the state made a decision to continue net-metering rooftop solar installations.
Wind power dominates Iowa’s green energy portfolio by producing 6.2 gigawatts of power but solar development is starting to catch up. Earlier this year the Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) announced plans to develop 5.5 megawatts of new solar farms across six locations. At that time the utility said the installations would increase the state’s solar generation by 20 percent to roughly 28 megawatts of solar power.
US Department of Energy’s Solar Utility Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) is fueling the expansion of solar power in rural areas. Since its inception in 2013, SUNDA has sought to increase the number of solar projects by co-ops, like the FEC, by eliminating obstacles of development by standardizing financing, energy pricing and reducing equipment and operation costs.Tweet