Iowa Utilities Board and Alliant Energy invited the public Thursday at Southwestern Community College to an informative meeting about Alliant’s proposal to build a solar-power generation and battery storage facility east of Creston.
“We have a clean energy vision,” said Alliant’s Strategic Project Manager Justin Foss.
Foss said planning for the project started in 2018 and should all legal work and procedures not have delays, construction is expected to begin in late 2023 or spring 2024. Alliant has acquired 307 acres for the project but plan on having only 76 acres dedicated to the solar power and battery. The lease for the land is initially 30 years but Alliant can utilize an additional 20-year option afterward.
“We are planning for the long term future,” he said.
“Eminent domain will not be used for this project,” Foss said. “We are not seeking any more land.”
Foss explained the fundamentals of how the solar power will work. The estimated 99,000 solar panels will the sun’s rays into electricity and that will be divided between the power grid and saved in the battery system. Electricity from the solar field will be used by area Alliant customers. Battery power can be used when solar generation is low.
Foss expects the solar power to be used the most during Alliant’s peak service hours which is typically 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer months. The solar power is designed to generate up to 50 megawatts. Foss said the solar power can be used in thousands of homes. The battery will have a capacity of 25 megawatts.
There are many benefits to solar; lower fuel cost for customers, lease payments for land owners and tax payments to local governments Foss said.
Battery storage benefits include “reduced strain” on local and regional power grid and provide power on demand and operate when solar is not providing power.
Alliant is still researching what solar panels to use. The panels will be able to absorb sun direct from the sun and rays reflected off the ground. Panels will be about 8 x4 feet and will tilt as the sun moves during the day. Panels will be installed on steel piles driven at least 8 feet into the ground. About 25,000 steel piles are expected to be used.
Alliant has property damage compensation agreements according to Foss.
“Construction related damaged will be paid as necessary,” he said. A road-use plan will be made with Union County during construction.
A question from the audience was in regard to the pilings and damage to tile lines below the ground.
“We understand Iowa law,” Foss said. Damaged tile that disrupts proper water flow, like property damage, will be repaired. Foss said Alliant can make judgment calls on some issues because Alliant’s possession of the land.
Another question was in regard to the lease and cooperation with land owned by multiple members of the same family or organization.
“There is relief and processes to resolve those issues,” Foss said, adding those cases are not new to Alliant.
Tax revenue from solar projects are determined by the state. Foss said all of Alliant’s solar properties in Iowa are not the same in size or tax evaluation. Foss said the state will determine the tax asking and how much is distributed to each participating county.
The project has a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. Alliant will remove all the solar-power and battery items and return the land to the condition directed by the landowner. Much of the 300 acres is east of the East Howard and Osage street intersection.
Foss said during construction, the land will be fenced but allow small wildlife to pass through fence and deer over the fence.
Foss said the Creston solar power property is part of Alliant’s future and it strategy. He said Alliant is striving by 2030 to reduce fossil fuel generation and carbon dioxide emission by 50% from 2005 levels. Alliant also wants to reduce water use for electricity by 75% from 2005 amounts.
Alliant is also planning by 2040 to eliminate all coal for electric generation. Ten years after that, it wants to have a net zero carbon dioxide emission.
An Iowa Utilities Board representative in attendance stated the approved meeting is part of the legal process to build the solar power facility. Those with comments, objections or letters of support can contact the Iowa Utilities Board.