Nick Fetty | January 22, 2015
Nearly 100 local politicians, students, and area residents attended Wednesday night’s Ecolopis Iowa City forum which focused on solar energy.
Iowa City attorney Rockne Cole was the first to speak at event explaining that the group formed about 60 days ago in a coffee shop and has gained quite a following in that time. He described Ecopolis Iowa City as a group of “doers” dedicated to renewable energy and sustainable development in Iowa City.
Warren McKenna – general manager of the Kalona-based Farmers Electric Cooperative – was the first of four presenters to take the podium Wednesday night. McKenna – who was named CEO of Year by the Solar Electric Power Association last year – said that his company has installed $3.6 million in solar systems since 2008, which includes solar arrays at Iowa Mennonite School and Washington Township Elementary. He has traveled from New York to Las Vegas and even as far as Germany to promote solar energy.
Troy Miller – Director of Power Purchase Agreements for North Liberty-based Moxie Solar – was the next to present.
“Your local government is doing a great job of stepping up and taking the bull by the horns with solar,” he said.
Miller was referring to the Johnson County government which has partnered with Moxie to install solar panels on the roof of the county’s new secondary roads building project. This project makes Johnson County the first county in the state to utilize a Power Purchase Agreement for a solar project. For this project, the county put zero dollars down and agreed to pay a higher rate for electricity over the next ten years. After the first ten years the county will own the system outright and is expected to save $255,000 over a 25 year period.
“This is just one building,” Miller said. “The county has more than one building. That’s the good news.”
Miller also discussed a recent partnership between Moxie Solar and the Iowa City Community School District. He analyzed more than 700 electricity bills at more than 26 school locations to help the district determine its options for installing solar panels at the schools. In addition to helping the schools, Miller said he plans to launch a six-part “Common Cents Solar” webinar series which will individually focus on schools, cities, counties, churches, agriculture, and commercial entities. Miller also encouraged local non-profits to contact him (firstname.lastname@example.org) and send 12 months worth of electricity bills which he will use to conduct a free solar analysis.
Iowa City realtor and developer Kevin Hanick was the last one to present on Wednesday night. Hanick has been practicing real estate in Iowa City for over 30 years but admitted that he knew very little about solar energy until recently.
“I’m a mutt in this whole game but I’m learning,” he said.
Hanick discussed a project he is currently working on which will be constructed near the intersection of South Riverside Drive and West Benton Street in Iowa City. The project will recieve tax incriment financing (TIF) which requires that it is constructed with photovoltaic solar panels on the rooftop. The 28,000 square-foot rooftop on the building is expected to fit approximately 700 solar panels.
“It struck me early on we should be constructing an energy efficient project,” he said, adding that he supports the idea of requiring developers to install solar panels on all future TIF-funded projects.
At the end of the event, Hanick was awarded the Tesla Award for Renewable Energy Innovation by the Ecopolis Forum to recognize his efforts.
On Saturday January 24 at noon, Ecopolis Iowa City will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Ecopolis Center at 1000 South Dubuque Street. The group will host its next monthly forum at the Iowa City Public Library on Saturday February 21 at 10 a.m. where they will focus specifically on Iowa City’s proposed Riverfront Crossings District.
For more information about Wednesday night’s event, check out this piece by Jeff Biggers for the Huffington Post Green blog.