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Iowa City Today

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Iowa City Council holds public hearing to review solar farm agreement with MidAmerican Energy

Local Government

By Terry Davis | Mar 19, 2020

Solar panels | Wikimedia Commons

At a public hearing March 24, Iowa City council members will hear public opinion regarding thousands of solar panels that would be owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy. 

The solar farm project is part of the city's climate action plan. City staff want to enter a 30-year lease agreement with MidAmerican Energy to create a solar farm in Waterworks Prairie Park on the northeast side of Iowa City.

The large-scale solar farm would be the first of its kind in Iowa City, and a first for MidAmerican Energy. MidAmerican Energy has been dealing in renewable energy since 2004, but typically deals in wind energy. MidAmerican Energy would begin construction this spring and finish the project before the end of 2020.

Eighteen acres of the 200 acre Waterworks Prairie Park would house 10,000 solar panels that run north and south. Purposely designed to be visible to the public, the solar farm would be within eye shot of drivers passing by on I-80 and visible to those walking on the park's pathways.

According to KCRG News, the agreement between MidAmerican and Iowa City is currently being reviewed by members of city council.

"We're excited to partner with the city to implement our first project and really learn a lot about solar energy through this first project. The solar energy system is expected to create three megawatts of energy. Enough power for 580 average homes in Iowa," Adam Jablonski, the director for renewable energy development for MidAmerican Energy, said.

Further problems and questions for city council have been proposed by including:

  • To date, there have been no studies to determine the effect of this project on the wildlife that are currently using the prairie, including birds (particularly grassland birds), turtles, and insects.
  • This project needs an environmental assessment to determine if there are alternative sites that would accomplish the purpose of building a solar project with less environmental impact.
  • There has been no discussion on future land acquisition to replace the 19 acres that will be developed into the solar farm. There has been no work on avoiding or minimizing the environmental impact to the park. The proposal to attempt to mitigate for the loss of the trees on the property line is inadequate and is not true mitigation.

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