By Chuck Soderberg
Iowa has much to be proud of regarding cost-effective, renewable electricity. Our state leads all others with 31 percent of electric generation coming from wind and is second nationally in wind energy production. As technological innovation uncovers new opportunities, we’re beginning to see the potential for solar generation here in the Midwest.
The not-for-profit electric cooperatives of Iowa, which collectively power the lives of more than 650,000 people every day, are leading with local solutions to incorporate solar generation into our energy mix, including community solar subscriptions and utility-scale solar arrays. This year, nine Iowa co-ops are leading or participating in solar projects – and this number will surely increase.
Because we're owned and guided by the people we serve, electric co-ops have unique priorities. Our co-op managers and local, elected directors are committed to providing electricity that is safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible. As innovation makes solar generation more affordable, you’ll see more cooperatives harnessing the power of the sun. Co-op solar is member-owned solar, and we’re looking ahead to incorporate more solar generation.
Some Iowa cooperatives are already making plans to add solar to their generation portfolio, which benefits all member-owners regardless of their income level or home ownership/rental status. For example, Central Iowa Power Cooperative, serving co-ops throughout 58 Iowa counties, recently announced plans to launch Iowa’s largest utility based solar project, which should be operational by the end of this year. Dairyland Power Cooperative, a Wisconsin-based generation and transmission co-op that provides power for over 23,000 Iowa co-op households, recently announced plans to add 15 megawatts of solar capacity.
For co-op member-owners who are unable to install their own on-site solar or who don’t want to handle the installation or maintenance of their own array, community solar is an excellent option. Several locally owned electric co-ops throughout Iowa now offer community solar subscriptions to their member-owners, giving them an opportunity to support this renewable energy option.
As more of our co-op member-owners explore investing in their own on-site solar generation, we’re committed to helping them make informed decisions based on their energy needs and goals. We recently worked with the Iowa Energy Center as they developed a resourceful 32-page booklet, the Solar PV Energy Guide, which provides detailed information on every aspect of the decision-making process. As we navigate this new solar frontier with our member-owners, reliable information is essential.
Each of Iowa’s electric co-ops must listen to the unique needs of their member-owners to make the best long-term decisions for safe, reliable, affordable power that’s environmentally responsible. For more than 75 years, electric co-ops have been working to improve the quality of life for our member-owners, and we’re looking forward to serving our communities in new and innovative ways with the power of solar. That’s the power of America’s electric cooperatives.
Chuck Soderberg is the executive vice president and general manager of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.