Newstrack: Johnson County moves forward with solar projects

Supervisors vote to set power agreement

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IOWA CITY — In April, Johnson County officials received project proposals from four solar companies vying for the county’s plans to add solar arrays to the roof of the Health and Human Services Building and adjacent to the Administration Building. Both buildings are located on South Dubuque Street.

The two projects are planned to be the county’s next foray into solar power. Last October, North Liberty’s Moxie Solar completed an 86-kilowatt-hour array on the Secondary Roads Facility at 4810 Melrose Ave.


On Thursday, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Dubuque’s Eagle Point Solar for the two arrays.

Local governments cannot receive renewable energy tax credits, but a company such as Eagle Point Solar can.

A PPA allows the solar company — which can receive federal and state tax credits — to construct the array, while the municipality buys the electricity at a reasonable price.

When the PPA ends in 20 years, the county can buy it for $1 and take over ownership of the solar array.

“We just essentially will pay the bill for the energy for 20 years,” said Josh Busard, director of Johnson County planning and development.

The county also has the option of buying the array after 10 or 15 years, which comes with a termination fee, but results in savings on the energy costs.

Panels for the Administration Building will generate about 25 percent of the building’s annual use, while the Health and Human Services Building array will produce about 12 percent of the building’s use.

Combined, the arrays are proposed to generate more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

Becky Soglin, county sustainability specialist, said that energy production would be similar avoiding greenhouse cases produced by nearly 46 passenger vehicles in a year, or the annual energy use of almost 23 houses.

Larry Steffen, vice president of sales with Eagle Point Solar, said construction of the arrays could be finished in a matter of weeks.

“We are ready to go as a company as far as the build on this,” he said Thursday.

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