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Largest solar farm in state expanding
The project was able to generate more than a million kilowatt hours each year when it debuted two years ago. Now, the 2,900 solar panels at Farmers Electric Cooperative (FEC) will become more numerous with the installation of another 2,880 solar panels, taking the solar array size to nearly two megawatts.
What will happen with all that energy? It will power over 200 homes for an entire year, making FEC the leading solar utility in the state.
The expansion is part of a larger goal for FEC of reaching 25 percent renewable energy by the year 2025. The current installation is the second phase of helping it achieve that goal.
One of the misconceptions about solar power is how they work. Jen Kranz with Iowa Wind and Solar says the panels will generate power all year even on cloudy days or during snowy periods.
She says that during the times of the year when there is more light, customers gain “credits” that can be used during the winter when they need to pull energy from the grid.
As solar panels are installed, they all have one thing in common: they all face the same direction. Krantz explains that they face south because that is the best way to harness the sun’s energy due to its path here in the Midwest. “If we can’t get the panels to face toward the south, we ideally get it to the west.”
When solar first started to become popular, energy credits were offered to help users. That is still the case. “There’s a 30 percent federal and a 15 percent state tax credit,” said Krantz.
The use of solar energy is becoming more popular Krantz says, “The technology has increased over the last 10 years and the panels themselves can last 40 years.
“The payback is relatively short – everything can be paid back in 10 years, essentially giving the consumer 30 years of collecting free power and not having to pay any bills.
“The technology itself is easy to repair in case something were to go wrong. For example, wind turbines have many moving parts so there’s more of a chance that something will need to be replaced.”
Even though users have solar energy, they still need to connect to a power grid.
“One thing about us at Iowa Wind and Solar is we do all of that for the customer,” he contiinued. “We help with the financing, installation and working with the power companies for the interconnection.”
Solar installations will continue into the future. “There will be definite growth,” Krantz says. “It will get more affordable as the technology increases. As long as the government is in favor of renewable energy and the tax credits are available it’s a very easy decision for people.”
That growth is expanding not only here in Iowa, but in other