Iowa public power utility Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) has entered into an agreement with Sandhills Energy to build a state-of-the-art solar generation facility that will produce five percent of the utility’s electricity.
Per the partnership, Sandhills Energy will own and maintain the equipment, while IMU will retain ownership of the land.
The utility will make a modest investment in a transformer and pay a very competitive rate for the solar-generated electricity it uses, IMU said.
Sandhills Energy will be financially responsible for everything else, from providing, building, and maintaining the solar equipment to planting and maintaining low-growth pollinator habitat on the site.
There will be no increase in cost to IMU’s customers, and they will see no changes to their bill.
IMU’s new solar generation facility will be co-located with a water plant on about 25 utility-owned acres. Its 4.1-megawatt capacity will generate up to 6.5 million kilowatt hours of IMU customers’ electricity every year.
Seasonality will be only a minor factor, as IMU’s new solar arrays will be able to reliably generate electricity even when partially covered by snow.
The system will feature First Solar Series 6 photovoltaic (PV) panels. First Solar is the largest domestic manufacturer of PV panels, and their patented thin film technology provides a host of benefits, including superior snow shedding, higher shade tolerance and an industry-leading degradation warranty, IMU said.
It will also help lower costs over time, it said. By tapping into renewable solar energy, IMU will be able to offload about 10 percent of the peak demand load in summer and up to 40 percent in winter.
“Since IMU’s cost to purchase electricity is based on historical usage, lowering peak usage will create substantial savings up front, and reduce the utility’s cost to purchase and bring power to Indianola in the future,” IMU said.
IMU and Sandhills Energy are tentatively scheduled to break ground in June 2023. The solar generation facility is expected to be online before the end of 2023.