Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 18, 2018

Library gets even greener

Council approves more solar panels for roof
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Feb 28, 2018
Photo by: PHOTO COURTESY OF IDEAL ENERGY This is an aerial view of the Fairfield Public Library, with the north side on top. The dark blue rectangles in the middle of its roof show the existing solar array. The light blue rectangles above, below and to the left of it show the planned location of new solar panels, which will increase the energy generated five times. The library foundation wondered about putting panels on the east roof (right, in this picture), but Ideal Energy determined the trees in the right-of-way blocked too much sunlight.

The Fairfield Public Library is trying to “go green” by getting a greater share of its power from renewable energy.

Solar panels were installed on the building’s roof in 2013. The Fairfield City Council approved a proposal Monday to add many more panels. The new panels will generate five times the electricity generated now.

The project will cost about $137,000, though the council was assured it would not cost the city anything. Library foundation board member Michael Porter said the foundation will front the money, and the city will simply pay the foundation back over time with the money it saves from lower utility bills.

“This will be like having an IRA that comes back to you,” Porter said. “And it’s good for the environment, too.”

Porter estimated the city will save $300 per month from the solar panels, and that the saving would increase over time as rates rise. He was proud that the solar panels are going up at the library, because it’s the perfect place to educate the public about solar power and alternative sources of energy.

Ideal Energy will install the solar array, and have it done before May 15. That is a significant date because it is the deadline to qualify for full net metering. Net metering is a policy whereby a solar array or other energy generator is connected to a public utility power grid, and gives the grid energy when it generates more than the user needs. Full net metering means the utility gives the user a credit for the full value of the excess energy.

Aurelien Windenberger, who handles finance and design at Ideal Energy, said the Iowa Utilities Board approved a new net metering policy for Alliant last year. The new policy is not as generous to owners of solar arrays, and Windenberger estimated it will mean a loss of 20-40 percent in energy credits. Solar arrays built before May 15 will be grandfathered in under the old, more generous policy.

“The final rule was not as bad for solar customers as initially expected,” Windenberger said. “The way Alliant had written the rules initially back in February 2017 was going to potentially decimate the market. Thanks to work from Ideal Energy and other solar firms around the state, we got those final rules to be fairer to consumers.”

Porter said the project will save the city money whether it makes the deadline or not, but he said there’s no reason to leave money on the table.

Windenberger said, “Michael has really been on top of this, working with the library foundation to make sure this project moved forward on time.”

During the meeting, councilors asked Windenberger about whether a new tariff announced by the Trump administration would affect the price of solar arrays. The tariff is 30 percent, and applies to imported solar panels. Windenberger said the tariff raised the price of solar panels, though that increase has been incorporated in the market during the past two months, and he didn’t expect to see additional increases.

Windenberger said another policy area solar companies have focused on is members of the Iowa Legislature signaling their desire to eliminate the 15 percent tax credit on solar installations.




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