January 18, 2022

Small, solar facility has big benefits

Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg saw it, or used it, all on his renewable energy tour of Southwest Iowa Friday.

As part of Clean Energy Week, Gregg’s last stop was of the solar-power facility at Valley View Campground near Green Valley Lake owned by Bill Bolinger.

“Iowa is number one in wind and one number one in biofuels and solar is growing,” Gregg said after a tour of the solar facility that generates 45 kilowatts. “And we have hydroelectric in Lake Red Rock. All are good developments.”

Wanting to find ways to lower utility costs after the campground opened in 2019, Bolinger began installation of the solar facility later that year and hit the on switch in February 2020.

“I needed to do something different,” he said.

Although the solar device is not intended to power his campground, it does add electricity to the grid which he benefits. Since installing the solar generator, his electric bill has been as low as $19 some months. Not all months are that affordable. Knowing demand will increase the cost because of air conditioning units at the campground, for example, the bills are still much easier to accept.

“The project has met expectations,” he said.

Bolinger’s solar facility was assisted by 1 Source Solar of Ankeny. The firm provides solar-facility site analysis, design, engineering and construction for agriculture, commercial and residential. The company has been in operation for seven years.

Company representative Angie Berhow said solar-powered devices like what is at the campground is a “set it and forget it,” like approach. Bolinger can keep up with his solar panels through a smartphone app that monitors the mechanics and can even diagnose when problems arise.

Berhow said the cost of materials to build solar-powered facilities is increasing, “but it still makes sense” to have. Berhow said Bolinger’s project has a 25-year warranty and the entire operation has a lifespan of 40 years.

Gregg was joined on the tour by The Iowa Conservative Energy Forum. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that advocates for conservative solutions for clean, affordable and reliable energy. Since it’s inception in 2019 it is a platform to promote the benefits of an “all of the above” energy strategy explained by representative David Oman who was in attendance.

Gregg said the addition of energy production in Iowa only better diversifies the state’s economy.

“We are an ag state,” he said, referring to Iowa’s ability to grow corn and soybeans. “And we are a manufacturing state as they are the biggest employers in some towns. Don’t forget the strength of Iowa’s insurance industry.” Adding energy production, like wind and solar, only enhances the state’s economy. Gregg said Iowa may not have been hit as hard financially during the COVID pandemic because of it diverse economy.

“We benefit,” he said.

Gregg added the state is 16th in the country for solar-power potential and hopes Iowa can capitalize. He noted how a severe winter weather blast in Texas literally and figuratively froze the electric grid through most of that state.

“We need an all above strategy,” he said about having multiple sources. “The sun shines if the wind is not blowing and still producing.”

Before his appearance in Union County, Gregg toured the Contrail Wind Farm in Taylor County and the POET ethanol plant outside of Corning.





John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.