Johnson County adding to solar grid

Rooftop array planned for new Ambulance Services building

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IOWA CITY — Johnson County continues to add to its growing network of solar arrays — this time atop the county’s new Ambulance Services building on South Dubuque Street.

Johnson County construction manager Michael Kennedy said, once final touches on the ambulance services and medical examiner building are complete in a week or so, work will begin to add solar panels to the building’s roof.

“We’ll begin right away,” he said.

While a contract still is coming together with North Liberty’s Moxie Solar for the project, the $120,000, 75.5 kilowatt solar array is expected to be online this year, he said.

Previous Johnson County solar projects have involved a power purchase agreement, which allows the county access to a cost savings on solar through a solar company’s ability to obtain tax credits not available to local governments.

However, Josh Busard, director of Johnson County planning, development and sustainablilty, said the Ambulance Services Building project is different.

“The solar landscape has just changed so dramatically that we felt it was a better investment to just purchase the array outright,” Busard said.

When completed, the Ambulance Services project will join the county’s growing network of solar arrays.

In December, the county welcomed two new solar projects to the local power grid — an 85.8 kilowatt ground-mount array near the Johnson County Administration Building and a 159.6 kilowatt array on the roof of the nearby Health and Human Services Building.

Johnson County first ventured into a power purchase agreement in 2015 with North Liberty-based Moxie Solar’s installation of two arrays totalling 86 kilowatts on the Secondary Roads campus at 4810 Melrose Ave.

Combined, those arrays produce more than 300 kilowatts of power — enough energy to power the Johnson County Administration Building, 913 S. Dubuque St.

Becky Soglin, Johnson County sustainability coordinator, said there are many ways to achieve sustainability, but the county’s commitment to renewable energy is encouraging.

“The Board of Supervisors made a commitment three years ago to make sure we added renewables to our energy efficiency efforts,” she said. “It’s great to see this is becoming our norm.”

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