Iowa rural electric cooperative leads the way on utility solar

Iowa rural electric cooperative leads the way on utility solar

Central Iowa Power Cooperative launches the state's largest utility-based solar power generation project.

Last week, Central Iowa Power Cooperative, the largest electricity generation and transmission cooperative in Iowa, announced that it will work with six member cooperatives to install 5.5 MW of solar power generation. To put that in perspective, the entire state of Iowa installed about 6 MW of solar power generation in 2015.  

SOLAR POWER: Last week Central Iowa Power Cooperative announced it will build Iowa's largest utility based solar project on six sites across the co-op’s service delivery territory. CIPCO will work with six of its rural electric cooperative members.

“Solar energy brings a host of economic benefits to rural communities: lower electricity rates, local jobs, and the potential to retain more dollars in the local economy,” said Stephanie Enloe with the Center for Rural Affairs branch at Dyersville. “Add to this the environmental and educational benefits of solar, and you have a win-win energy solution. We applaud CIPCO’s decision to move ahead with its plans.”  

Customer-owned utilities are looking out for rural Iowans

The utility-scale solar projects will be installed by Azimuth Energy, LLC of St. Louis, Mo. The distribution cooperatives involved with the project include Clarke Electric Cooperative, Consumers Energy, Eastern Iowa Light & Power Cooperative, East-Central Iowa REC, Midland Power Cooperative and Pella Cooperative Electric.

“With the cost of solar energy plummeting, customer-owned utilities are looking for ways to tap the economic and environmental benefits associated with this resource. CIPCO’s announcement demonstrates their commitment to ensuring that rural Iowans don’t get left out of the clean energy transition,” said Johnathan Hladik, also with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Rural Americans have always been innovative, self-reliant and pragmatic. Solar energy is a tangible example of those values.”

This project is the first phase of CIPCO’s long-term plan

In late 2015, CIPCO initiated an RFP for the development of utility-scale solar facilities to be located at several member cooperative sites in Iowa. The multi-site solar installation is the first phase in CIPCO's long-term plan to incorporate solar as an additional emissions-free resource within its generation assets. This initial phase will provide up to 5.5 MWs AC of electricity for members served by CIPCO.

"CIPCO is committed to providing environmentally friendly sources of energy to our members across the state," says the company’s CEO, Dennis Murdock. "Over half of the energy generated by CIPCO is emissions and carbon-free, and the addition of solar resources continues our commitment to providing a well-balanced generation portfolio."

Solar power provides reliable, clean energy generation

Utility-scale solar provides reliable, clean electricity generation and compliments CIPCO's existing renewable energy generation portfolio, he adds. “The development and installation costs for utility-scale systems have fallen significantly in recent years creating an opportunity for CIPCO to invest in this alternative, carbon-free resource. The new facilities will provide CIPCO with additional resources for distributing electricity to its members, of all income levels, throughout the state of Iowa.”

CIPCO is Iowa's largest cooperative energy provider serving 13 electric cooperatives and associations spanning 58 of Iowa's 99 counties. CIPCO is a generation and transmission co-op supplying power to its member distribution cooperatives covering a territory which stretches 300 miles diagonally across the state from the Mississippi River on the east to Shenandoah in the southwest. CIPCO supplies all power requirements for its member co-ops, and as their power provider, CIPCO is dedicated to delivering quality, safe and reliable service at the lowest possible long-term cost.

To read the CIPCO announcement, visit cipco.net/content/cipco-launches-iowas-largest-utility-based-solar-project.

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