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Alliant Energy unveils plans for Cedar Rapids community solar garden
Electricity customers can enroll to receive monthly credits on their electric bills
CEDAR RAPIDS — Alliant Energy started construction on a community solar garden in Cedar Rapids this summer, and once it’s complete next summer, enrolled electricity customers can receive monthly credits on their electric bills.
The solar garden will consist of 18,000 solar blocks. At maximum output, the 4.5-megawatt project could power around 3,600 homes, the company said in a Tuesday news release.
The solar garden will be built on Alliant property north of the 1100 block of 33rd Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids. Construction is expected to be completed by late summer 2023.
The solar energy generated will be delivered to the power grid, where Alliant Energy manages its sale on the market.
Alliant customers can buy a solar block from the garden and receive monthly energy credits on their electric bills, beginning at 5.59 cents per kilowatt-hour. Those credits will begin once the garden is operating and will continue for the 20-year life of the project.
Each 250-watt solar block will generate an average of 541 kilowatt-hours annually and is priced at $395, said Melissa McCarville, a senior communications partner for Alliant Energy. A residential utility customer uses an average of 10, 715 kilowatt-hours in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Our community solar program allows the company's electric customers to benefit from solar power without having to install solar panels on their property,” she said.
Enrollment in the project is on a first-come, first served basis for Alliant’s electric customers in Iowa, McCarville said.
Subscriptions for the community solar garden opened on Tuesday. Alliant Energy offers an online calculator for potential subscribers to determine how many solar blocks they would need to supplement or fully cover their energy needs.
Sixty percent of the garden — the maximum amount a single subscriber can claim — is already committed to Transamerica and AEGON Asset Management, a diversified insurance and investment group.
An additional 6 percent will be allotted to the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity. Alliant Energy will donate up to $400,000 in solar blocks to Habitat for Humanity homeowners in need and will issue up to $600,000 in bill credits to participating residents.
Another 25 percent of the solar blocks are reserved for residential customers. The remaining blocks are now available for business customers but could eventually open up to residential customers as well, McCarville said.
This will be Alliant Energy’s first community solar garden in Iowa and its second nationally, following the garden completed in Fond du Lac, Wis., in late 2021.
“We are excited for our Iowa customers to enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable energy,” Terry Kouba, president of Alliant Energy's Iowa energy company, said in the news release. “The Community Solar program is just one more way we can use our knowledge and resources to serve our customers while bringing them options and solutions to meet their needs.”
Brittney J. Miller is an environmental reporter for The Gazette and a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.
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