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The Winds Of Change: Iowa Grows Solar Capacity Thanks To Utility

Photo Courtesy Alliant Energy

Renewable energy in Iowa mainly comes from wind rather than solar power. According to Iowa State University, as of 2022, the Hawkeye State ranked first in the United States for the percentage of electricity produced by wind energy. In contrast, Iowa ranks 34th in solar energy generation, with only 1% of net electricity coming from solar. However, that percentage should increase as Iowa expands its solar energy capacity.

Alliant Energy is developing much of that expansion. The Wisconsin-based public utility “provides regulated energy service to 1 million electric and 425,000 natural gas customers across Iowa and Wisconsin.”

Alliant aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its utility operations by 2050. This effort includes increasing its generation of renewables like solar and wind and retiring its coal-fired facilities. As part of the company’s Clean Energy Blueprint, it plans to add 400 megawatts (MW) of solar generation in Iowa by the end of 2024. 

Photo Courtesy Alliant Energy 

To get there, Alliant is working with the agriculture industry, labor groups, and landowners to “ensure everyone understands the benefits of solar,” the company stated on its website. Alliant continues to expand its solar footprint through agreements with Iowa municipalities and other partners.

One such agreement was signed in January when the Fairfield, Iowa, City Council approved a lease agreement with Alliant Energy, allowing the company to build a 1.5-megawatt solar array across from the Fairfield Municipal Airport.

As the Southeast Iowa Union reported, Fairfield council member Doug Flournoy said the array would generate enough electricity to power all city buildings. At the time of the announcement, it wasn’t clear how many acres Alliant would need for the project, but early estimates were that it would require no more than six to eight. The original agreement will last 20 years. After that, it can be renewed in five-year increments.

Photo Courtesy City of Fairfield Iowa

The Fairfield array adds to a growing list of Alliant solar projects in Iowa that are either under development or already operating. Here’s a look at the others:

  • Duane Arnold Solar Project: This effort is an estimated 200-MW solar project located in Linn County. 
  • Wever Solar Project: Wever Solar is an estimated 150-MW solar project located in Lee County. In the future, the project has the ability to add a 75-MW battery energy storage system. 
  • Creston Solar Project: This project is estimated to add 50 MW of energy to Union County and can add a 25-MW battery energy storage system in the future.
  • Dubuque Solar Project: Operational in 2017, this 4.8-MW solar project in Dubuque County includes a 3.9-MW system west of the city and a smaller 900-kilowatt system downtown along the Mississippi River. 
  • Indian Creek Nature Center: In 2018, Alliant built a 420-panel array at the Indian Creek Nature Center’s Amazing Space to help it reach net-zero status. Located just outside of Cedar Rapids, it became Iowa’s first commercial building to pursue Net-Zero Energy certification, according to Alliant. Viewers can track production using a real-time dashboard.
  • Marshalltown Solar: This 2.5-MW solar project provides renewable energy to support Alliant’s Marshalltown Generating Station, which the company calls a “highly-efficient natural gas plant completed in 2017.” The company says the solar garden’s energy offsets local power demand and improves Alliant’s sustainability footprint in Marshalltown.

Photo Courtesy Alliant Energy


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