Tiny Iowa Co-op Turns Solar GiantBy Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: December 3rd, 2013
One of Iowa’s smallest electric co-ops plans to harvest solar energy in a big way. A very big way.
Farmers Electric Cooperative is developing a 750-kilowatt solar farm on nine acres. It will be the single largest energy project to reap electricity from the sun in the state, if not the region.
“This is part of our Cooperative Energy Plan to cut outside energy purchases by 25 percent,” said Warren B. McKenna, who manages the co-op headquartered in Frytown. And that suits Farmers’ 640 members just fine.
“Around 20 percent of our membership are solar and wind energy aware through participation in our Green Power Project or through direct ownership of distributed wind and solar,” McKenna said. “With the completion of our solar farm, FEC will have over 1,500 watts of solar energy per member customer, far exceeding any U.S. utility and even Germany.”
Groundbreaking on the project will be in March and generation from the solar farm is expected to begin sometime next year. FEC will enter into a 10-year purchase power agreement with Eagle Point II, LLC, after which the co-op will own the solar farm.
The solar farm will provide 100 percent of the power consumed by two neighboring agriculture businesses that supply organic and all-natural food products to supermarkets across the U.S.
All technology including solar modules, inverters, and racking will be U.S. made. SolarWorld will supply the solar modules.
FEC’s renewable energy plan includes solar programs for schools that are customer-owned with co-op incentives; site-based solar that is member-owned on member property; and customer- owned and co-op-installed and maintained off-grid solar.
The oldest co-op in Iowa, FEC has a total solar energy capacity of 300 kw with 20 customer-owned solar electric systems from 2 kw to 100 kw connected to its grid.
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