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Community Solar Project Workshops Planned

Post Date:07/11/2017 7:00 PM

Ames Electric Services customers interested in learning more about SunSmart Ames, a community solar project, are invited to attend one of several scheduled public workshops. Workshops are planned for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18, and 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26. All workshops will be held in the second floor meeting rooms of the Ames Public Library, 515 Douglas Ave.

SunSmart Ames is a community solar project designed to generate 1.5 to 2 megawatts (MW) of electricity by early 2018 for purchase by Ames Electric Services. Ames Electric Services customers are able to invest in the project by buying generation shares or “Power Packs.” Each Power Pack represents a one-time investment and will entitle customers to a future bill credit based on the amount of energy generated by the solar array and the market price of electricity. It is estimated a Power Pack will cost less than $500. 

Establishing a community solar project is a priority of the Ames City Council and the Ames model is similar to a program offered by the Cedar Falls Utilities. The solar generation facility will be built and operated by a private entity, and Ames Electric Services will purchase all electricity provided by the solar panels and provide a bill credit to SunSmart Ames customers.

Although Ames Electric Services encourages solar power by offering incentives to customers who want to invest in individual systems, not everyone interested in renewable energy wants or is able to pursue this option. “The initial investment in solar can be costly and not every property is a good candidate for solar generation,” said Director Donald Kom, Ames Electric Services. “A community solar project allows all residents to invest in renewable energy. This project will be a very visible reminder of how dedicated the citizens of Ames are to being green.”

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is energy provided by the sun. This energy is in the form of solar radiation, which makes the production of solar electricity possible. Electricity can be produced directly from photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells are made from materials which exhibit the “photovoltaic effect." When sunshine hits the PV cell, the photons of light excite the electrons in the cell and cause them to flow and generate electricity.

Here are just a few reasons for adding solar to a well-rounded energy portfolio:

•     Solar energy advances the City’s EcoSmart goal to decrease its carbon footprint.

•     Solar energy is not only sustainable, it is renewable.

•     Solar energy is silent. There is absolutely no noise made from photovoltaic panels as they convert sunlight into usable electricity.

•     During operation, solar power produces zero emissions.

 Where will the Community Solar Project be Located?

There are two sites for SunSmart Ames under consideration. The primary site is a field on Airport Road, just north of the Ames Municipal Airport. This site must be evaluated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for construction due to its proximity to the airport. The secondary site is between the Ames Animal Shelter and Billy Sunday Road, just south of U.S. 30. This location will require clearing and some fairly significant moving and leveling of earth.

The SunSmart Ames project will begin construction when 80 percent of the available Power Pack shares have been purchased. Those attending the SunSmart Ames meetings will be able to sign a form indicating intent to purchase Power Packs or take a form with them to send in later.

For questions or more information, contact Energy Services Coordinator Steve Wilson at 515.239.5177 or swilson@city.ames.ia.us.

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