Farmer’s Electric Cooperative (FEC) has activated the largest solar energy project to date in Iowa – a solar farm located in Kalona – which was celebrated yesterday with an open house at the project site. Council staff, legislators, utilities, solar installers and environmental groups were in attendance to participate in what was yet another example in a recent string of exciting developments that signal that the future of solar in Iowa is bright.
At 800 kilowatts (kW), the solar photovoltaic (PV) array is almost three times the size of what is now the second largest solar project in the state, a solar field completed at Luther College in Decorah in 2013, indicating the rapid growth of solar in Iowa. This project also puts FEC first among utilities in the U.S. for having the most solar PV installed per customer, reaffirming Iowa’s position at the forefront of renewable energy in the U.S..
What could be most important, however, is that FEC is proving that solar works when the customer, utility company or a combination of the two owns it.. FEC has been a leader in renewable energy for years, using different strategies to support customer ownership of wind and solar.
Thanks to this model, FEC’s customers have the option of installing solar on their own property and choosing renewable incentive rates (e.g., feed-in tariffs) or rebates to help offset the upfront cost of the project, greatly expanding access to solar.. Both strategies have resulted in projects owned by farmers, small businesses and residential customers in the service territory. Customers can also buy panels installed at FEC’s community solar project, the first of its kind in Iowa.
This new 800 kW solar project was developed jointly by FEC and the Iowa-based solar company Eagle Point Solar. All components and equipment were manufactured in the U.S, and the 4 acre construction project was aided by heavy equipment manufactured in Pella by Vermeer. Eagle Point retains ownership in the near term to take advantage of tax incentives that reduce the cost of the project, but FEC will own it for years to come – allowing the utility to meet long-term renewable energy goals earlier than anticipated.
The Council congratulates Farmer’s Electric Cooperative and Eagle Point on this important milestone, and looks forward to seeing the next largest solar project on the horizon in Iowa very soon.