KALONA, IA (AP)
Local, state and federal leaders gathered to celebrate the opening of Iowa's largest solar farm Thursday in a ceremony near Kalona.
The farm is expected to generate enough energy to power about 120 homes, the Des Moines Register reported.It adds about 2,900 solar panels to the region's growing base of sun-powered energy.
Eagle Point Solar of Dubuque built and owns the farm, but Farmers Electric Cooperative will buy the power and take possession after a decade. Farmers Electric Cooperative has about 650 members and started looking at solar energy in 2008 because of rising energy costs.
The cooperative's CEO Warren McKenna said the group wanted to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025.
"We don't have wind in southeast Iowa," he said. "Solar was our only option."
Heartland Power Cooperative, which has 5,200 members, said earlier this month that it's looking at options for a $1.5 million array that would be home to 1,200 solar panels near St. Ansgar.
"We hope to see more utilities figure out ways to make solar work," said Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney at Environmental Law & Policy Center in Des Moines. The organization has pushed for more solar adoption in the state.
"I don't think that this will be the biggest project for long," he said. "Utilities are well positioned to build large projects and advance solar in the state."
Barry Shear, president of Eagle Point Solar, said he believes solar development should take off in Iowa.
"It's right around the corner," he said.