Iowa has long led the nation in renewable energy. The chance has come to lead again, right here in Linn County, with the approval of two new solar farms, the Coggon Solar and Duane Arnold Solar projects. Both would provide clean, affordable, energy to Iowa families, bring millions in private, economic investment to the area and sound a clarion call to new businesses seeking places to locate with access to renewable energy.
Here are the facts:
- The Duane Arnold Solar Project will bring an estimated $154 million in private investment to Linn County, according to research by Strategic Economic Research.
- Both projects would bring a combined $12.5 million in property tax revenue to Linn County.
- The new revenue can help fund improvements to our schools, buy equipment for our first responders, fix our roads, or improve county services. All with no additional expense to our county’s taxpayers.
- Solar energy is affordable. In fact, the unsubsidized cost of utility scale solar is less expensive than natural gas or coal, according to Lazard, a large financial services company. Alliant says that electricity from the Duane Arnold project will save their customers $300 million on future energy bills.
- The project will generate enough electricity to power 616,000 homes in Iowa. Electricity from the Coggon project will flow to the Central Iowa Electric Cooperative, including the Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative, and power from Duane Arnold will serve Alliant customers, many right here in Linn County.
- During construction, the projects combined will employ up to 550 construction workers. Both companies developing the projects have stated a commitment to hire local labor, creating good jobs for Iowa workers in an innovative and growing field.
- The jobs story doesn’t end with construction. As Ron Corbett, former Iowa Speaker of the House of Representatives and current executive at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance put it: “Increasingly, businesses looking to grow here will not consider a local development site unless renewable energy is part of the equation.”
Affordable, reliable solar energy has its critics. Let’s also look at a few facts regarding some of their concerns:
- Both projects, combined, would use less than 1% of Linn County farmland. That farmland is voluntarily leased to the projects by farmers, who are best suited to decide what is best for their land and families.
- At the end of the project the companies must remove all the panels and equipment and return the land to its original state.
- Proper soil management during the project contributes to agricultural sustainability. Farmers can resume planting crops after decommissioning if they choose.
- Solar panels are solid and sealed and cannot be penetrated by rainwater. In the same way the screens on the smartphones we carry with us all the time do not leak, solar panels do not leach.
- As the Sierra Club states: Solar power “has no carbon emissions and NO other harmful toxic emissions, including mercury, lead and cadmium.”
- Advancements in solar energy production make Iowa an ideal place to generate electricity from the sun. UV light penetrates cloud cover. Cold temperatures do not hinder solar panel performance.
- If snow and ice collects on the panel, the solar companies will remove the snow and ice. The panels are constructed to withstand severe weather events, including wind, flooding, hail and more.
Today, Iowa is a clean and renewable energy leader with wind and ethanol. We can lead in solar too. Most importantly, the projects will bring economic opportunity, jobs and clean affordable energy to our Linn County families.