Eastern Iowa cooperative named national leader in solar energy

A map of solar power concentration across the United States. (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
A map of solar power concentration across the United States. (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

Nick Fetty | November 6, 2014

Iowa has been known as a national leader in wind energy and the Hawkeye State may now be on its way to being a leader in solar energy as well.

A recent report by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) touts the Farmers Electric Cooperative in Kalona as one of the nation’s leaders in solar energy. The 650-member utility provider “has become a model for simple, hands-on business programs that have made 20 percent of its members solar owners.”  The report states that co-op members who install solar panels on their homes and farms are eligible for a “a feed-in-tariff for self-generation or [they can] opt for an up-front rebate based on the size of their systems.”

Farmers Electric has also set a goal for reducing its use of fossil fuels 25 percent by 2025. The Green Power Program allows members to pay an extra $3 on monthly utility bills and the money is used to purchase biodiesel to fuel backup generators. Additionally, the company has provided solar energy panels for area schools including the Iowa Mennonite School as well as Washington Township Elementary School.

The cooperative opened the state’s largest solar farm over the summer which includes approximately 2,900 solar grids spread across roughly 4.5 acres. This event garnered attention from local, state, and even national media outlets.

Last month, Farmers Electric Cooperative general manager Warren McKenna was named Utility CEO of the Year by SEPA.

To achieve Obama’s SOTU goal, Iowa may need to invest in solar energy


Photo from the 2009 Solar Decathlon in Washington DC. Credit: F. Delventhal, Flickr.


Former Hawkeye football star Tim Dwight is among those pushing to incentivize solar energy in Iowa

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama set forth an ambitious national goal: to derive 80 percent of electricity from “clean energy” sources by 2035 – a notion praised by a group of key Senators.

“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas,” he told the joint session of Congress.

But for the U.S. to reach that goal, states will need to drastically reshape their economies, and Iowa is no exception.

Though Iowa is now the second leading producer of wind energy in the country, about 72 percent of its energy still comes from coal-fire plants that are often outmoded, according an Iowa Physicians for Responsibility report. To reach Obama’s renewable goal, we may need to look to the sun.  Continue reading