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.

Iowa’s largest solar farm opens in Kalona

Nick Fetty | July 31, 2014

The largest solar array in Iowa will host its grand opening today in rural Kalona, approximately 25 miles southwest of Iowa City.

The array will feature 2,900 solar grids spread across roughly 4.5 acres. This is almost three times the size of the state’s current largest solar array located on the north edge of the Luther College campus in Decorah. The Kalona farm is expected to generate about 1.1 million kilowatt hours per year which is enough energy to power roughly 120 homes.

The project is a collaboration between Farmers Electric Cooperative and Eagle Point Solar. Farmers Electric Cooperative was formed in 1916 and is based out of Frytown just north of Kalona. The cooperative provides electricity for about 650 members in rural eastern Iowa and aims to generate 15% of its energy using renewable sources by 2025.

Eagle Point Solar is a Dubuque-based solar panel company with more than a dozen projects in Dubuque, Peosta and New Vienna in Iowa as well as Galena and East Dubuque in Illinois. Earlier this month, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Eagle Point Solar was not violating state law by selling electricity to the city of Dubuque generated by solar panels on the roofs of city buildings. The ruling was viewed as a major win for solar energy advocates.

In an editorial published in the Des Moines Register, CNA Corp.’s Military Advisory Board member Ronald Keys said renewable energy sources such as the Kalona solar farm “is good not just for Iowa’s economy and environment, but it also helps set the tone for how to secure our nation’s energy, economic and security future.”

Kalona creek naming rights to sell on eBay

A creek in Iowa. Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr.

The Kalona City Council will attempt to sell the naming rights of a local creek on eBay this week.

The creek, currently known as the West Drainage Ditch, had it’s naming rights auctioned off once before, but the winning bidder’s suggestion of “Baniki Kinshi” – Japanese for “horse meat prohibited” – led the council to try the auction again.

“The name just wasn’t appropriate,” Schlabaugh said. “That was our biggest fear, that it meant (something else), so we’re going to decline it.”

The second auction is planned to start on Thursday, Dec. 29, and is expected to run for ten days. Bidding is open to anyone – not just Kalona residents, and funds from the winning bid will be used to replace sidewalks throughout the city.

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.