After three years of planning, Farmers Electric Cooperative has opened the largest solar farm in Iowa. The 2,900-panel solar array is capable of generating more than a million kilowatt-hours a year.
Solar has grown by leaps and bounds in Iowa compared to even just five years ago.
“In 2008, there was just one little bitty array in Johnson, Washington and Iowa counties. There were four modules,” Warren McKenna, general manager and CEO of the co-op told The Des Moines Register. “I don’t know how many modules there are now, but it’s in the thousands — on homes, businesses, and pig and cattle operations.”
With its new solar array, Farmers Electric Cooperative is capable of generating up to 1800 watts of solar per customer, giving it the highest per-capita solar generation rate of any utility in the country with nearly double the second-ranking utility. By displacing energy generated by coal-fired power plants, Farmers Electric Cooperative will avoid approximately 2.1 million pounds of carbon pollution a year.
“The solar farm and our other clean local generation — including geothermal and wind — is part of our commitment to generate 15 percent of our power locally with renewables by 2025,” McKenna said. “Generating our own power close to our customers allows us to reduce transmission losses, secure long-term rates, and keep more money local.”
But producing local renewable power has implications beyond the state’s borders, including increasing resiliency, energy diversification and security.