Johnson County wins award for solar arrays

Environment

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IOWA CITY — Johnson County has received statewide recognition for recent efforts to add solar arrays to county-owned properties.

State nonprofit 1000 Friends of Iowa has named Johnson County one of nine recipients of the organization’s Best Development Award winners of 2016.

The county was recognized in the Innovative Leadership category for the county’s new solar panels — an 85.8 kilowatt ground-mount array near the Johnson County Administration Building and a 159.6 kW array on the roof of the nearby Health and Human Services Building.

Josh Busard, director of Johnson County Planning, Development and Sustainability, said in a December news release the award was an honor.

“Johnson County is committed to holistic sustainability as demonstrated through this award by combining a renewable energy and a stormwater management project,” Busard said in the release.

Panels on the Administration Building are expected to produce about 113,000 annual kilowatt-hours, or about 24 percent of the building’s total energy use. The Health and Human Services array is anticipated to generate about 195,000 annual kilowatt-hours, or close to 12 percent of the building’s power use.

Combined, the two arrays’ energy production is similar to avoiding greenhouse gases produced by nearly 46 passenger vehicles in a year, or the annual energy use of almost 23 houses.

In addition to solar panels, the county applied 2 inches of compost on top of the soil and then performed 6-inch deep tillage to break up the compaction so the site better absorbs rainwater and reduces runoff.

With no-mow, low-grow grass now planted, the area requires little maintenance.

Johnson County first ventured into a power purchase agreement last year with North Liberty-based Moxie Solar’s installation of an 86 kW array near the Secondary Roads Facility at 4810 Melrose Ave.

The Best Development Awards ceremony will take place at noon on Thursday, January 19, 2017, at the Iowa State Capitol Building, East Ninth Street and East Grand Avenue in Des Moines.

There has been ongoing discussion of possibly adding solar power to the future Johnson County Ambulance Service Building at 808 S. Dubuque St., which is slated to open next spring.

Meanwhile, the county has entered into contracts with Farmer’s Electric Cooperative for two of its secondary roads department’s sheds in rural Johnson County.

Each $4,700 contract allows the county essentially to get credited back for the clean energy generated at the cooperative’s solar field south of Iowa City.

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