Little Wall Lake Park near Jewell recently became the first county park in Iowa to have a 100 percent offset of its electricity by producing its own power through a solar array. Yesterday, a group of dignitaries and members of the public gathered for a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the $300,000 project.
“This project is over three years in the making, and has finally come to fruition,” said Brian Lammers, Hamilton County conservation director.
The project is expected to produce about 157,000 kilowatt hours in its first year. The park has an annual usage of about 158,000 kilowatt hours, according to Larry Steffen, vice president of sales for Eagle Point Solar, the Dubuque-based company that financed, designed and built the array.
Eagle Point Solar will charge the park 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to the 12.25 cents it was paying.
“That’s a savings to the Hamilton County of about $5,100 in what they pay for power,” Steffen said.
“Hamilton County paid zero dollars on this project,” Steffen said. “Thanks to a Power Purchase Agreement, there was no cost to the taxpayers to do it.”
A PPA is a financing tool for any organization that is not able to take advantage of the renewable energy tax incentives offered by the state and federal government.
The agreement between Hamilton County and Eagle Point Solar will be in place for 25 years; at that time, the county will be able to buy the solar array for $1. The array has an expected lifespan of about 45 years.
The electricity produced by the 330-foot long solar array flows through underground wires directly to the campers at the Little Wall Lake campground. When there are not enough campers to use all the electricity produced, the power back-feeds into the grid.
“Hamilton County is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint, and this project is about as clean as it gets,” Steffen said during the ribbon-cutting.
Over 25 years of use, the solar array will avoid the use of up to 79 million gallons of water by thermoelectric power plants.
According to Eagle Point Solar, reducing the carbon footprint over 25 years of the project is the equivalent to:
• Planting 75,445 trees.
• Reducing automobile driving by 6.5 million miles, or 330,000 gallons of gas.
• Recycling more than 10 tons of waste instead of sending it to the landfill.
• Burning 3.1 million pounds of coal.